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J.C. Library expands beyond its walls

LIBRARY DISTRICT UPDATE
   Since the passage of a library district in May 2000 Jefferson County Library has been able to expand and add many new services Library Director Melanie Lightbody wants to make sure the public is aware of.
   "Circulation is up almost 14 percent, which is a big boost. It shows (the public) voted for it and yes they're using it," she said.
   With the district came five elected district board members: Janice Alexander, Marie Glenn, Stephen Hillis, Susan Stovall and Leslie Weigand.
   The formation of a taxing district for the library made a huge difference, according to Lightbody, raising its budget from $125,000 to $500,000 per year. She noted property taxes from both Jefferson and Wasco counties contribute to the library district.
   Library patrons are getting many new services in exchange for the boost in funding, Lightbody said, listing off many new programs.
   The budget for books and materials has tripled, and the library can now afford to buy computers.
   "We will be buying five to six computers a year as we rotate out the old ones," she said, noting the library staff needs eight computers for cataloging and other work, while seven computers are now available for the public to use.
   "Since last year, we've had a 42 percent increase in internet use and we'll add another computer station for the public this year," she indicated.
   Lightbody mentioned Crestview Cable in Madras has been donating cable internet service to the library for two or three years, and there are now five internet-connected computers at the library.
   For internet users, the library has added new on-line services which library card holders can access right from their homes. The Electric Library (or e-library) allows people to view popular magazines, journals, newspapers and TV and radio transcripts, photos, maps and more on the Jefferson County Library's website www.jcld.lib.or.us. Another feature on the website "Learn-a-Test" lets library patrons take practice tests in their own homes such as the SAT, GED, civil service, and citizenship tests.
   The library's campaign to have more people get library cards has paid off, with a 37 percent increase in new library cards being issued. There are also a lot more things to check out these days, since the library has added 3,000 books, 100 new videos (how-to, literary, nature, documentary, etc.), and is building its collection of audio books and music CDs.
   "We used to buy books every other month, but now we buy twice a month. If you tell us about a book we'll buy it if we think it's interesting," Lightbody mentioned.
   Subscriptions to periodicals have also increased to 108 different publications. New titles geared at appealing to a wide variety of readers include: Computer game magazines PC Gamer and Game Pro, a skateboarding magazine, World Wrestling Federation magazine, Rolling Stone, Family Handyman, a Native American magazine called Whispering Winds, Motor Trend, Entertainment Weekly, O the Oprah magazine, People, Budget Travel, Willamette Weekly, large print editions of Reader's Digest and Time, and 10 Spanish magazines.
   "Many were added due to public requests," Lightbody said, adding, "This year 10,000 was budgeted for Spanish materials and we have many regular Latino users."
   Having a district allowed the library to hire an experienced administrator, Lightbody, and in January 2001, Jane Steele as the Youth Services Manager. Previously there was only a half-time person to do children's programming, but now there are two people, with Spanish Youth Coordinator Yirah Marrero conducting a ground-breaking Spanish Storytime.
   Between Steele and Marrero, the library's number of children's programs jumped from 155 to 312 this year, and attendance has grown from 2,273 kids to 6,498 kids. This was thanks to the addition of a third Storytime on Saturdays, a grant-funded traveling storyteller who visits elementary schools all over the county from Ashwood to Culver, a popular Summer Reading Program, and new activities focused on teens.
   Steele recently had 29 teenagers turn out at a pizza and movie night sponsored by the library, and is planning a "Poetry Slam" event with an open microphone for poets in the future.
   The pizza party was held in the Library Annex, which formerly was a church next to the library and was purchased in October 2000. The two-story, 8,000-square-foot annex is larger than the library itself, which stands at 5,000-square-feet. In the short-term the annex is being used for storage, and is a community meeting place for many local groups.
   "We are bursting out at the seams in this building and if we didn't have the annex I don't know what we'd do," admitted Steele.
   Other plans for the annex include using the upstairs assembly room for an art film theater, and $10,000 has already been raised for that purpose.
   Ideally, the library district would eventually tear down the old building and build an expansion over into the lot next door. But flood plane issues are still being considered. The two buildings may have to find a way to combine into one facility instead.
   Currently, books and computers cannot be put in the annex because there is no way for the staff to supervise it. If the two buildings were combined, or a new addition built, there would be more room for a children's area, a staff room, and books.
   Outreach is another area where the library has been able to expand. "A staff person devotes eight hours a week to outreach to seniors and others," Lightbody said, noting books are dropped off for patrons in Culver, at the Antelope Cafe, Ashwood Post Office, and Warm Springs and Madras retirement centers.
   "We are working with the Tribes in establishing a library out in Warm Springs since a significant percentage of patrons of the library are from Warm Springs," Lightbody related.
   Community involvement includes being part of the "Kids First" prevention program, in which many agencies deliver free information and services (from smoke detectors to library card forms) to low income families to prevent problems from happening. The library recently received a $35,000 grant to purchase a Storytelling van, which will be used with the Kids First program and to take more books to outlying areas.
   One fun event the library is planning is a "Community Read" where everyone in the community is encouraged to read the same book, then reading groups are formed to discuss the book.
   "It acts as an ice-breaker for people in town, a topic of conversation, something they all have in common," Steele said, mentioning Community Reads have been popular in other towns.
   With all these programs up and running since the formation of a library district, Lightbody said the Madras area is an exciting place to be right now.
   "I can't say enough about the community. (People were) supportive when they voted and have continued to be supportive of the library. People are very positive and enthusiastic." Lightbody observed, adding, "Speaking as someone who's been in the library field for 12 years, I think that's really impressive."