When the libraries closed, the community stepped up to reopen them

Grants Pass, Oregon – In 2006, Josephine County voters rejected a taxing district that was to pay for its libraries, and the county closed all its library branches.

“Those were difficult times,” said Rebecca Stoltz, executive director of the Josephine Community Library Foundation. “We were able to reopen the libraries as non-profits and we ran them like that until 2017, when we were able to pass a small library district to generate some steady income.”

It turned out that residents in Grants Pass and nearby communities were not ready to let their libraries go and this summer, the library foundation celebrated a huge milestone: it purchased land in downtown Grants Pass for a brand-new library building.

“We raised $254,000 to buy the property and we are so excited we were able to do that,” Stoltz said. “The community really showed up. We have big donors and small donors, and we made it happen.”

Over the next three to five years, the library foundation – which recently received a grant from the Avista Foundation – plans to raise another $26 million for the new library building in Grants Pass. Stoltz said the new building will also function as a community center.

“We started planning this library before the pandemic,” Stoltz said. “We feel like peoples’ needs have changed, so in early 2024 we are going to start holding public meetings to home in on what people want this to look like.”

The library foundation works to support the Josephine Community Library District, which operates libraries in Grants Pass, Illinois Valley, Williams and Woolf Creek. Over the past three years, the foundation has raised $5.4 million to support those libraries.

“We are just two weeks out from beginning to build a new library in Williams,” Stoltz said. “We are replacing a modular building with no running water and no restroom with a real building.”

Illinois Valley is next on the list.

More than 200 volunteers help operate the libraries, which also have a small paid staff. That’s a remarkable turnout in these rural communities.

“We couldn’t do it without all the volunteers. We are so grateful for them,” Stoltz said. “And the donors or course – we are thankful for every single donation, big and small.”

At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people’s lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. The foundation is a separate, non-profit organization established by Avista Corp., and does not receive funding from Avista Utilities’ customers through rates. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.

Learn more about the Josephine Community Library Foundation and its work.

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