The Stayton Mail, February 8, 2012
JEFFERSON — Many might have doubted it could be done.
But many Bunco games, flower sales and candy fundraisers later, members of the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library have raised $100,000 in a little more than a year to build the town a new $800,000 library.
And this dedicated group of volunteers is committed to raising the total amount due without subjecting the town's residents to tax increases.
So how did a dozen committed volunteers raise so much money in a small community for a library with an annual operating budget of $76,250?
"Begging," said Karen Barr, Friends of the Library vice president.
"Literally, we beg," grant writer Linda Baker added, smiling but absolutely earnest in her resolve.
The existing Jefferson Public Library is 1,074 square feet of public space in a aging facility, the historic Jacob Conser House on Main Street.
Shelves nearly touch the ceiling and computers are tucked into any available corner. Books appear to be spilling off of the shelves.
Built in 1854, the existing library building was reported as "severely structurally deficient" in an engineer's analysis, Baker said.
It also fails to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, does not have enough meeting space and is understocked on personal computers.
A new Jefferson Public Library will offer more shelving space, a reading lounge, areas for children, teens and adults, space for public displays, Wi-Fi and more computer capabilities, an outdoor courtyard and an energy-efficient building constructed to ADA requirements, according to promotional materials the Friends group distributes.
Hours and staffing would remain the same.
"The city will lease the land to Friends of the Library. Friends of the Library will build the library and give it back to the city," Baker said.
The library is one part of a broader civic center project being undertaken by the city. The city plans to build a new city hall on the site in the future.
Friends of the Library volunteers say the group is unswayed by the remaining $700,000 that must be raised to pay for the new library's construction costs.
Instead, they focus on all the library will be.
"The building will be green, sustainable and energy-efficient," said Chris Giffin, the Friends of the Library secretary. "It will be 3,200 square feet for the library and 800 square feet for a meeting room."
About 1,200 patrons walk through the library's doors monthly in this town of about 3,000 people, Baker said.
"There's no work space for staff and no place to store materials. There has to be one volunteer at a time in there or we're tripping over each other," Baker said.
No new taxes, levies or bonds will be used for the new building. The project will be entirely supported by grants, as well as private and community donations.
Included in the $100,000 raised so far, the Friends of the Library, a nonprofit, has received approximately $61,500 in grants from a variety of foundations. The grants range from $2,500 to $10,000.
"We're in conversation with several foundations for another $500,000," Baker said.
The group should find out whether they are approved for those grants within the next few months, she said.
The determined lot of volunteers come from all walks of life, and range in age from 29 to members older than 60.
Baker, a retiree, comes from a nonprofit background. Friends of the Library Vice President Karen Barr was a school librarian for many years. Secretary Chris Giffin is a mixed-media artist.
Baker is recognized for bringing optimistic energy to the group; her favorite saying is that she sees the project with "rose-colored glasses."
"We all bring a different perspective and balance each other out," Baker said. "We're able to have a good balance because we all look at things in a different way. I think the whole is stronger than the individual parts."
Libraries also mean something different to each group member.
Barr considers herself a traditional library user who prefers the feel of books to Kindles or other electronic readers. Baker spends hours with books, their spines, their pages.
Giffin, the artist, sees a library as the pulse of a community.
"I see it as more of a conceptual thing," Giffin said. "It enhances the community, giving us strength, giving us a future. It gives us a chance and a choice to improve ourselves and our community."
The focus of the group now is to encourage 10 percent of Jefferson to financially support the library fundraising drive.
They likely will make that goal if their past energy is any example.
Written by email@example.com, (503) 769-6338 or follow at twitter.com/DeniseRuttanSJ
- Jefferson's New Library.....
- will be paid for with donations from individuals, businesses and service clubs. No new taxes, levies or bonds will be used! Current constructions costs are estimated at $175 - $200 per square foot. The library will connect the residents of Jefferson to the world through its materials and digital capabilites. As a building with flexible program spaces the new library will be an information-rich center where not only will it be a place for citizens to understand their past but will enrich their present lives and help them to prepare for and connect to their futures. Libraries are the doorways to everywhere - please help keep ours open!