Over a year ago, Hood River County closed the doors on its three public libraries, in Hood River, Cascade Locks and Parkdale. However, county residents reopened those doors in 2011 by creating the independent and stable Hood River County Library District.
After the library district’s first year of operation, July 2011 to June 2012, residents have shown just how much they missed their libraries. During that year, HRCLD patrons checked out more materials, had access to more new items and came to programs more often than the year before the libraries closed. And this was all done while ending the year with a strong fiscal outlook.
The situation did not always look so rosy. The Hood River County Library, a department of Hood River County, faced severe cuts due to mounting costs and decreasing revenues for the county. The libraries closed on July 1, 2010, after the failure of a May ballot measure to create a special library district, referred to voters by the County Commissioners.
At the November 2010 general election, the voters of Hood River County approved a second measure to form a library district, albeit at a lower rate than the first measure.
The newly formed Hood River County Library District is an independent unit of local government, with a dedicated tax base devoted to running the libraries in Hood River County. While the district did not receive its first allotment of taxes until November 2011, it was able to open in July thanks to the donations and efforts of Hood River County residents, private foundations, and the Oregon and Washington library communities.
Even under these difficult circumstances, though, people came out to support and use their libraries. The nearly 5,400 people who used their card during the first year:
n Checked out 101,246 items; 5.2 percent more than the previous open year
n Gained access to 5,329 new items; 55 percent more than the previous open year
n Came to 226 children’s, young adult, and adult programs, with the total attendance of 7,940 being 20 percent higher than the previous open year
n Had 17,021 sessions on library-provided Internet computers
HRCLD also introduced many successful and new programs and services. Patrons can now check out e-readers from their libraries and receive personalized help with their devices. There is now programming specifically for teens, including the popular Literary Trivia Challenge.
The libraries now have dedicated bilingual English/Spanish staff to serve the more than 30 percent of the county of Latino descent. In addition, the Friends of the Hood River County Library’s annual Hood River County Reads with “The Circuit” author Francisco Jimenez proved the most successful yet, with more than 1,600 people attending talks by the author.
And the Hood River County Library Foundation, following its successful early opening fundraising campaign, raised $40,000 to give to the library district for its 2012-13 fiscal year.
Despite anticipating a rocky first year financially, the library district also ended the year in strong fiscal health. It has ample reserve funds to operate through November, when new tax revenue will be received, without the need to take out any loans, as is common practice even among established districts.
The district receives approximately $700,000 in tax revenue annually thanks to the generosity of Hood River County’s voters and property owners. The library district anticipates many more successful years to come.
For more information about HRCLD, its programs and services, or its successful first year, contact the district at 541-386-2535 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://hoodriverli-brary.org.