Library expands outreach to rural residents

Sean C. Morgan

Rural families can purchase Sweet Home Public Library Cards for $3.50 this year.

The library has received a federally funded Library Services Technology Act grant through the Oregon State Library to help pay for rural library cards. The program is in cooperation with the Lebanon and Scio libraries.

“We applied for the grant, and what we wanted to do was reach and serve the underserved,” said Library Director Leona McCann. Linn County has approximately 35,000 residents living outside of city boundaries and without library service.

Under the grant, rural residents can come from anywhere in the county and apply for one of 200 library cards at Sweet Home Public Library, McCann said. The program is intended to run for two more years, with the price of the card increasing. In the fourth year, the cards will be the normal price, $35 per year.

“By the fourth year, we’re hoping people realize they can’t live without their library,” McCann said.

The library must distribute 200 cards by Aug. 31 under the terms of the grant, she said. So far, the library has distributed 32 cards under the grant. McCann estimates that the library already has a couple of hundred card holders from rural areas right now.

The subsidized price for the library card is available to residents whose cards have been expired at least six months or who have not had cards.

The library has offered cards for reduced prices in the past, McCann said. Those were funded by the Friends of the Library, but the price has never been this low.


Elsewhere around the library, McCann said, the Friends of the Library bookstore is booming.

She thinks that may be because of the economy, and people are looking for entertainment, she said. The books at the store are reasonably priced, many for under $1.

With proceeds from the store, the Friends have been purchasing Caldicott and Newberry award-winning children’s books to add to the library collection.

Ready to Read Grant

The library has received its annual Ready to Read grant, which funds the Summer Reading Program, McCann said.

The grant is for $1,033, down by about $500 this year because of cuts by the state government, she said.

Budget Woes

Library spending has been reduced after the city learned that property tax limitations have resulted in an unanticipated budget shortfall. That means book purchases are mostly on hold.

“We’re just trying to keep going with what we have,” McCann said. To keep things fresh, the staff re-arrange the library and showcase different books.

“There is so much here to read,” she said.

The Friends are helping out too, with the children’s books and by purchasing at least two copies of each book on School District 55 reading lists for grades seven through 12.

“Teachers need to know they’re here and available for their students,” McCann said.

The library continues to purchase books from standing authors, she said, and among those she was excited to announce two new Jean Auel books.

New Due Dates

The library’s new computer system doesn’t work well with the existing system of due dates, McCann said. She is planning to ask the City Council to approve new due dates for borrowed items.

The Library Board is recommending three-week checkout periods, two weeks for new books and one week for DVDs and video tapes.


Automation of the library’s card catalog and checkout process has not only paid off with extra operating hours, it’s also helped clean up the back room, McCann said.

Where piles of books once sat in back rooms waiting to be processed and put on shelves, she has a small stack of about 60 in her office.

“There’s thousands less because of the automated system,” McCann said. “It’s much faster.”

But the best part, she said, is patrons are using the card catalog on-line to see what books are in and place holds.

Security System

The city has installed a new video surveillance system at the library, along with City Hall and the City Hall Annex.

Library staff can now observe activity throughout the library inside and out, McCann said. It was paid for through a grant from the city’s insurance provider.

Hours, Circulation, Internet and Taxes

The library’s circulation is on track for an annual circulation of 60,000 by the end of the fiscal year, June 30. Normally, its annual circulation is around 50,000 items.

Last month, the library circulated 5,403 items, up from 3,900 to 4,200 items in a typical month.

The library is now running six computers for Internet access, expanded from four with a Gates Foundation grant, McCann said, and Wi-Fi is available for patrons who bring their laptops.

During tax season, the AARP has three people helping with taxes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the library.

People who wish to use the service or looking for any other information should call the library at 367-5007.

The library is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.