Library unlocked after year-long closure

July 6, 2011 -- With a relish for the future and respect for the past, the Hood River Library system ceremonially opened its doors on Friday.

With a relish for the future and respect for the past, the Hood River Library system ceremonially opened its doors on Friday.

On Tuesday, the library returned to operation, after being closed since June 30, 2010.

"We are really excited that you are coming back to the library," Director Buzzy Nielson told the 300 people gathered at the State Street library entrance Friday for the unlocking of the library and the chance to go inside for the first time in a year.

The festive occasion was helped with music by Victor Johnson and friends, ice cream served by Friends of the Library and a visit from The Cat in the Hat (Kim Vogel).

Also, the message chain that was created for the levy campaign in spring 2010 was back on the building for the occasion.

As soon as the doors opened at about 5 p.m., the crowd streamed in. Books couldn't be checked out that night, but staff was issuing library cards, and many people signed up on the spot. (See page A9 for schedule details for Cascade Locks, Hood River and Parkdale branches.)

"We did not go quietly. We said, 'We will do whatever it takes to achieve public access for all,'" said library board president Sara Duckwall Snyder, referring to the May 2010 defeat of a levy to create a library district, following Hood River County's decision in 2009 to no longer fund the library as a department.

"This community is filled with varied people who need a public library," Snyder said. In November 2010 a second levy request passed and a new library board elected.

"It takes a village to raise a library," Snyder said.

Seven-year-old Tanner Brownback said, "I think it's cool because we get to read all the books, our parents can read them to us, and story time is fun. It's just fun."

His sister, Keelie, 12, looked forward to meeting old friends again.

"It's awesome. Because now I can have access to all my favorite books," she said, citing "Harry Potter" and the "Spiderwick Chronicles" series.

"Fabulous," is how parent Lindsey Rosselle of Hood River described the reopening.

"My kids have missed a lot of the aspects of what the library provides," she said. "Ryann (5) has really been looking forward to this," she said. Her other daughter, Claire, 1½, "hasn't experienced it, but she is about to."

Rep. Mark Johnson told the crowd that the library reopening serves as "an example of what kind of community we really are."

"You'll never have your library close again, and for that I thank you all," State Librarian Jim Scheppke told the crowd.

"The Hood River County Library is an inspiration to the entire state of Oregon," Scheppke said. "This isn't the only community that's struggling with funding problems; it isn't the only community wondering how to keep a public library going. There are unfortunately many communities in Oregon right now having that same issue.

"When I go out and meet with people in those communities, I talk about the Hood River story. Your story. You are the only place to reopen its library with permanent and stable funding," he said.

On Friday, the symbolic lock was opened by new Library Director Buzzy Nielsen and his predecessor, June Knudson, after a series of short speeches and a moment to honor Meg Euwer, who has served local libraries for more than 50 years and recently stepped down from the Library Foundation.

Foundation president Michael Schock said Euwer is part of a long line of women who have made the county library system happen.

"Our library is here because in the early 1900s a group of women came together and decided this community needed a library," said Schock. (Georgiana Smith, who personally formed the community's first library in the late 1900s, is the namesake of the park that surrounds the library.)

Schock also acknowledged former library foundation board president Linda Rouches, who more than 10 years ago began the movement to pass a bond for the 2003 library expansion, and the late Virginia Hosford, who Schock said, "worked diligently so the park that surrounds the library could come to fruition. (Hosford died in May 2011.)

Her husband, Don Hosford, was present, and Schock said, "We want to let him know we are so appreciative of the work Virginia did."

Then there was Euwer, the Upper Valley orchardist who always had time for the Parkdale library and served for years on the Library Foundation board. Schock and Knudson presented Euwer with a bouquet.

Said Euwer, "I think I'm a token symbol, of the old grandmother who is still working for the library.

"There are so many people, who should be here receiving this, too. I'm just a symbol. Thank you so much."

Snyder said that, as the library prepares to reopen, the biggest thanks go to the community.

"You are the driving force to all our efforts to help reopen our library system," she said.

Snyder said her interest in getting involved with the library revival was inspired by her own Hood River valley childhood, and memories of checking out books and hearing librarians read her stories."

"As a mom I hope to always provide the same, if not more, for our children; and I saw we were losing out on a fundamental resource I relied on as a child," she said.

Snyder acknowledged the following people for their roles in reopening the library:

Library board members Paul Blackburn, Mary Ethel Foley, Mike Oates and Heather Staten

"No task has been too large or too small for them," Snyder said.

She said the board made the decision to reopen the library without taking out any debt.

County Administrator David Meriwether, Finance Officer Sandy Borowy and staff members Heidi Ochsner, Sandi Lain, "among others, have given countless hours."

The Hood River Library Foundation, which she said "has tirelessly risen to the challenge of early opening," overseeing the assembly of $220,000 in grants and donations to fund the library through November 2011 when district tax revenue comes available.

The Friends of the Library. "They truly are our - and your - friends," she said.

Nick Hogan, acting budget officer, "who has given numerous hours and finance expertise to get our budget off the ground." (Hogan is budget manager for the Hood River County School District).

Debra Phillips, who gave pro bono legal advice when it was so badly needed. (Phillips ran unsuccessfully for the district board in November 2010.)

Chuck Bugge, executive search consultant and Michael Gastineau, library consultant.

Jim Scheppke, state librarian, "who has been a guiding light since the first day we became a library district."

Hillary Steighner, administrative support and library technician, "who stepped into a role that morphed daily with poise and a can-do attitude."

Schock acknowledged the foundation board members, who did not want to wait until November to open the library.

"We thought it seemed such a shame to have it sit closed through the summer when it is so important to have programs, especially for the children," he said.

The community came through with grants from organizations, businesses and individuals, "especially from individuals," Schock said.

"We relied a lot on these people for everything in the past year," Schock said. "We grew our board, and brought in new people with new energy."

But Schock looked out at the people gathered in the sun along State Street and said that is where the main credit lies.

"I think you should all thank yourself for helping reopen the library," and at that, a modest round of applause went around.

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