A New Chapter

Ingenuity, collaboration and hard work pay off with the reopening of a reimagined public library.

Story by Kaelynn Davis above photo by Tristin Godsey

Last winter, with only weeks left before he retired from a long career in public service, former Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley admitted he may not have seen it all, but he’d seen plenty. And what he saw during the grand opening of the Roseburg Public Library ranks near the top of his list of feel good experiences. 

Last Jan. 10, the public was invited to celebrate the completion of the library’s major physical makeover and Colley, a key player in the collaborative effort that made the whole thing possible, found it difficult to control his emotions. He was especially moved during the reveal of the facility’s new dedicated children’s space. 

“The opening of the new Whipple Children’s room was one of the most humbling experiences in my 34 years in public service,” he says. “Just seeing the joy on the faces of the children was incomparable. This is an incredible opportunity to make a difference for our kids and everyone in the community.” 

The event represented a symbolic round of applause for community collaboration. For nearly 19 months, citizens, organizations and local officials worked together to reopen the library after a November 2016 bond proposal to support the Douglas County Library System was rejected by voters.

“We will continue to work to provide a space that is more than just a library, but also a place for lifelong learning and a barrier-free gathering space for all.”

-Lance Colley, retired Roseburg city manager

Organizers succeeded in reopening some of the county’s smaller libraries. But the Roseburg branch, the largest in the system, was a bigger challenge. Getting the branch reopened, and its financial future secured, required a different approach that included a long-term partnership with Douglas Education Service District, plus additional support from the City of Roseburg, Oregon Community Foundation, the Whipple Fund, the Ford Family Foundation and individual donors.

The library is now open 30 hours a week, but that’s just a starting point for new director Kris Wiley.

“I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m committed to doing what it takes to make sure we keep Roseburg Public Library up and running at a high-functioning level,” Wiley says.

One of just three library employees, Wiley sees a strong community volunteer effort as key to the library’s future.

“We will not be able to operate effectively without a really strong core of volunteers,” she says. “We expect to require 50 to 70 volunteers to keep the library operating as efficiently as possible.”

The remodeled library features a spacious new children’s room. Photo by Koree Tate.

The remodeled library features a spacious new children’s room. Photo by Koree Tate.

The library reopened with some policy changes. For instance, library card fees will be waived for those living within Roseburg’s city limits and for any student within the boundaries of Roseburg Public Schools. Fees for returning overdue books have also been waived.

Non-city residents can obtain a library card for a $15 quarterly fee — or $60 annually — and an assistance fund has been created for qualifying non-residents who can’t afford the fee.

With the library up and running again, Colley says he sees nothing but great things ahead.

“We will continue to work closely with the community, our education partners, other libraries throughout the county and foundations to provide a community space that is more than just a library,” he says, “but also a place for lifelong learning and a barrier-free gathering space for all.”

Want to help the library as a volunteer? To apply, go online to cityofroseburg.org/departments/library