The Library Survives!

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The New Director of the Roseburg Public Library, Kris Wiley is from Littleport, Iowa. It’s in the northeast corner of the state and has a population of about 85. After the Volga River flood of May 16, 1999, much of the town was destroyed and most residents moved away. At the 2000 Census, there were 26 residents. Its unincorporated and has lost most of its population of farmers and old-timers. Kris was in New Ulm, Minnesota at the time of the flood.

Kris is as excited to be in Roseburg as she could be. Hired in July, last year, she has been on a fast -tack to discovering Oregon from the ocean to the mountain tops, places many Oregonians probably have on their bucket lists. She’s a great fit for the library needs of Roseburg and Douglas County.

NEW ULM — After nearly nine years with the New Ulm Public Library, Kris Wiley is resigning as director to start new adventure in Roseburg, Oregon.

Wiley’s last day as New Ulm’s library director is June 15. She first came to New Ulm in August 2009 and was named library director four years ago.

Wiley has worn many hats in her lifetime. She started out as a sports journalist in Iowa. She decided to change careers and worked as a nurse for a time. Eventually, she went back to school for her Masters in Library Science. Her first professional library job was in southern Georgia. From there she moved to New Ulm. The Journal, New Ulm, Minn.

Wiley likes to pick up a good book in her spare time. She describes herself as an “omnivorous reader.”

“I really enjoy books with great character development, and I also love a good mystery with a strong sense of place. I love to read about contemporary current affairs and history. I really run the gamut,” she said.

-News Review –

Why do we need libraries?

Little eyes have a way of expressing delight and excitement in ways that adults rarely do. The little boy was about five following his mother’s instruction to keep hold of his sister’s hand so she wouldn’t get lost among the rows of books in the small-town library. Its an exciting place with more available than most people will ever know. Any place this quiet must be special. Respecting the institution has always been a given.

A few years ago it was reported that the New York City Libraries needed $1.5 billion over a ten year period to repair old buildings that were crowded and falling apart. And, perhaps, there is the problem; not enough money. But, is there something else?

Are libraries obsolete or have we run out of philanthropic entrepreneurs to fund the necessities? Who is responsible for paying to keep libraries open when the wealthy citizen is no longer able or willing to foot the bill? The taxpayer or the user of services? Many voters are saying no. Certainly not in Roseburg.

Library Committee Chair and City Councilor, Brian Prawitz said that someone asked him, “What kind of community would close a library and expect to survive?” There were about 300 people present at the Grand Opening of the remodeled, and reinvigorated Roseburg Library who don’t want to find out.

Brian described the library as a sort of “Canary in a goldmine” that is an indicator of what’s going on in the community.

City Manager Lance Colley, in his announcements said the Roseburg City Library would be a flagship for all of Douglas County, not just Roseburg. The continuation of library services throughout the county is the goal.

It’s possible that the financial challenges of funding a county library system was an anomaly, but indications are they are not. Revenues are on the meeting agenda of every public body in America. Things change in the name of progress; in the name of politics, in the name of culture, in the name of education and taste.

The city of Roseburg and Douglas County had the determined enthusiasm of a group of citizens and local leaders to see through the difficult process of re-opening their beloved library. Now the real challenge of keeping it open for the next generations is before them.

Besides death and taxes, change is a certain thing.

Greg Henderson, Southern Oregon Business Journal

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