Improving Library Service

Over 80,000 people in Lane County do not have access to tax-supported public libraries. Even though libraries are arguably as important in a democratic society as public schools, the people who live in the white portions of the Lane County map are without tax-supported service.

Why Don't we have county-wide service?

In most counties in the United States, any county resident can pick up a library card that's valid in every library within the county. This is not true in Lane County, because people in some cities and districts pay taxes to support library service, and many people in rural areas do not.

If you live in the white area on the map, you can visit any library in the county and attend free storytimes there, You may be able to check out free children's books from volunteer libraries, but you will be asked to pay a "non-resident fee" to check out books at tax-supported libraries. Click here for details about all these libraries.

Because our county has a 100-year history of independent, local libraries, the simplest and most cost-effective solution to Lane County's problem may not be not politically realistic: to merge all the libraries into a single county-wide library district. Instead the Lane Library League has studied ways to expand the existing library districts, create new districts, and build volunteer libraries.

With Lane Library League support, citizens in the Creswell area south of Eugene created the Lane Library District in a November, 2004 election. The new district opened a modern library in Creswell in February, 2006.

One way to extend library service throughout the county would be to expand the Lane Library District and other existing districts. Another option is to create new library districts, although this is more complicated. A third option is to build and expand volunteer libraries in unserved areas. Since 2001 the Lane Library League has supported volunteer libraries with funds for Summer Reading Programs and other projects, using money from donations and from the annual Authors & Artists Fair fundraiser in December.

At the same time we are encouraging the existing libraries to work more closely together. In Washington County, for example, a consortium of independent, local libraries provides service to everyone in the county. A single library card accesses every library in the consortium. A daily courier service makes it easy to order any book in the county and to have it delivered to a local library the next day. A consortium of this sort in Lane County would allow local funding and control of each library while providing the advantages of county-wide service.

One hurdle that stands in the way of county-wide service is the Eugene-Springfield Metro Plan, which erroneously labels libraries as an "urban service," and as a result decrees that people in the greater Eugene-Springfield area can become part of a library service area only by annexing their properties to the cities of Eugene or Springfield. Of course libraries are not an urban service -- Lane County alone has three largely rural library districts. It is also obvious that many suburban areas will not annex to Eugene or Springfield for decades, if ever. Nonetheless, the archaic Metro Plan has proven difficult to change.

LLL President Bill Sullivan with staffers from Parenting Now! and the two age-appropriate books he wrote to deliver free to families with infants in rural and suburban Lane County, "Baby Cat" and "The Super Hungry Dinosaur."