Keizer Community Library is asking for $125,000 per year over the next three years from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation in order to become a full-fledged public library and member of the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library System (CCRLS). Members of the library board of directors joined representatives from the CCRLS as they made their case for the city grant at a council work session on April 6.
The organization has been staffed exclusively by volunteers for its entire 30-year history, but after the disruptions surrounding COVID and the general growth of the community over time, it was decided they needed to hire some professional help. This year, for the first time, the non-affiliated community library hired a part-time staff-member.
“Keizer Community Library has operated as an all-volunteer library since last September when we realized that it simply was not possible to allow a full-time volunteer library manager to do the entire function,” said BJ Toewe, vice president of the board of directors at Keizer Community Library, who spoke to the council on April 6. “So we took money out of our savings and we hired a part time library manager.”
“Our quest for funding with the city of Keizer is for $125,000,” said Teowe. “That would cover a full-time professional librarian that we would hire, a half-time clerk that would help cover hours at the desk.”
Toewe said the part-time hire has been an immense help, but in order to qualify to become a public library under the CCRLS guidelines, they need to be fully staffed with a full-time librarian.
“It seems fitting that we’re talking about possibly establishing a Keizer public library because it is national library week,” she said. “We’re here to offer the city of Keizer a functioning library. It is a unique opportunity – we can become a functioning public library and a member of CCRLS. We can and will meet the standards required for that.”
Toewe noted the city has shown a dedication to helping Keizer residents to keep fit, and feels it’s time for the city to do something for their minds, as well.
“The city of Keizer has shown a really strong commitment to creating healthy bodies of the residents in our city by supporting parks as strongly as you do – now it’s time to show that you value the minds of our children, our adults and our seniors in this city as much as you do their healthy bodies,” she said.
Toewe was joined at the microphone by John Hunter, an executive director for CCRLS. He said he was there to welcome Keizer into the system and to answer questions.
“We want Keizer to join and we’re not going to throw any impediments,” said Hunter.
“Being in the CCRLS allows members from all over the area to have things we couldn’t have individually,” said Teowe.
“When we share the burden collectively it becomes a lot more affordable,” said Toewe. “A huge benefit for being part of the CCRLS, for a small standalone city library, is that there is a children’s committee, there is a cataloguing committee … so CCRLS provides a lot of that direct support to staff.”
This isn’t the first time an attempt has been made to join the CCRLS – however the current plan is to bring the issue before voters and let them decide – a position advocated by former city mayor.
“I can’t imagine elected officials gambling with public money – you’re going to buy a librarian for three years. Where’s the beef after that?” said Lore Christopher, one of the speakers at the work session and a former Keizer mayor. “Where’s the money coming for, for time and eternity to pay for that library? It’s going to come from the taxpayers of Keizer – and that’s exactly right. I’m thrilled to have this vote, but it must be a vote.”