This is the story of a southern Oregon community that refused to live without its libraries.

In January 2007, Josephine County closed its libraries. Every branch shut down due to a lack of government funding. One day they simply locked the doors.

Eight busy months later, local community members officially formed the nonprofit Josephine Community Libraries, whose mission is to ensure long-term operations of a public library system serving Josephine County, while adhering to its core values of integrity and accountability. In December 2008, less than two years after closure, they reopened the main branch in Grants Pass.

Thanks to a small but dedicated staff and the tireless contributions of more than 200 volunteers working on the order of 2,500 hours every month, all four original branches once again serve county residents.

In 2011 alone, a quarter-million items were checked out to more than 25,000 library cardholders. Nearly 20,000 patrons used the libraries’ computers to access the Internet, browsed online reference resources, or took advantage of free high-speed internet service. Thousands more enjoyed library exhibits and events.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in an eight-part series of the Oregon Cultural Trust’s Field Guide to Oregon Culture, which spotlights cultural attractions around the state. The Cultural Trust supports more than 1,300 nonprofits statewide in the development of arts, heritage, and humanities programs. Learn how your free contribution can enrich lives at

about author Dave Weich

Dave Weich is the president of Sheepscot Creative. Since the company’s founding in 2010, he's delivered the work of more than thirty strategists, developers, designers, and filmmakers to dozens of grateful clients. For fifteen years now, he's lived within blocks of Hawthorne Boulevard in Southeast Portland. Perhaps you've seen him on the corner of 32nd, ordering a Back in Black Bean sandwich from Fried Egg I'm in Love.

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  1. Meryl Burke says…

    Awesome story. Libraries enrich lives and bring communities together. Kudos to the people of Josephine county for their dedication and determination. Shocking that there isn’t enough money to keep the library doors open. Next time I drive through Grants Pass area I’ll try to stop in and see the library. This is impressive and I hope it sets an example for the rest of the nation and the world. Great job everyone!

    Written on November 28th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
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