Only two years ago, Hood River County, Ore., 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 (HRCLD).
With the library district now ending its second year, in June 2013, residents have shown just how much they missed their libraries. Last 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 HRCLD 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 last year:
n Checked out 129,133 items, 27 percent more than last year;
n Gained access to 8,852 new items; 66 percent more than last year
n Checked out 3,842 items on the district’s downloadable e-media service Library2Go; 53 percent higher than last year
n Came to 448 children’s, young adult, and adult programs, with the total attendance of 12,715 being 60 percent higher than last year
n Had 18,664 sessions on library-provided Internet computers, 10 percent higher than last year.
HRCLD also introduced many successful and new programs and services. Patrons can now check out electricity monitors or passes to area museums at their libraries. The Friends of the Hood River County Library’s annual Hood River County Reads with “Ricochet River,” by Robin Cody and “Something to Hold,” by Katherine Schlick Noe proved the very successful, with over 750 people attending talks by the authors.
And the Library Foundation raised $35,000 to give to the library district for its 2013-14 fiscal year, including money for new teen and magazine areas to debut later in the summer.
Despite anticipating a rocky first few years financially, the library district also ended its second 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 $715,000 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 second year, contact the district at 541-386-2535 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://hoodriverli-brary.org.