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About the Library

In 1916 a group of Madras citizens met and formed the Jefferson County Library Association with Lewis H. Irving as president.  Staffed by volunteers, the library began in a small room on the lower floor of the Odd Fellows Hall. Soon after, the library was housed in the newly built city hall (later to become the courthouse and currently the Museum on the corner of 6th and “D” Streets).Many books were donated to the library from local citizens and many more were borrowed from the Oregon State Library.    From 1917 until 1930 the county appropriated $250 a year for the library, with the city of Madras also giving a small sum.  The paid librarian was Fanny J Kane who received $60 for her services in 1919.  Other workers were paid small amounts.

The association later purchased a small frame building and moved onto a lot across the street owned by Howard Turner.  Mr. Turner allowed the library building to use the lot free of charge.  This lot is on the other corner of 6th and “D” Streets where the dance studio is now.   During the depression the county funds were discontinued and volunteers carried the full responsibility of keeping the library open.  The annual Membership Tea was the only source of income for the library.  When expenses could not be met Lewis H. Irving would come to the rescue and pay for the electricity and postage. The association had to find creative methods of fund raising.   They hosted dances, bazaars, rummage sales, poster contests, quilt raffles, and even operettas.

The war years found the library becoming a popular drop-in center for women and children who were here for the construction of the Army Air Base.  It was kept open two afternoons a week, dust storm or sleet, rain or snow, firewood or no firewood.  A budget of $50 a year was now set aside by the county for library expenses, with another small donation from the city.  The State Traveling Library was the greatest resource for new books at this time.  Mr. Turner sold the lot on which the library sat, so the little building was moved to “D” Street next to the present police station.

By the early 1950's the building was far too small for the library's needs and the Association made plans for a building project.  The Madras Kiwanis Club pledged its assistance toward the erection of a new library building.  Construction was begun in August of 1955.  The new building was dedicated a year later and represented an outlay of $10,000 with most of the labor coming from volunteers and all the cost covered by donations.  In 1960 an addition was built on the back of this building, bringing the size to 2300 sq. feet and providing space for a small children's room.

This building served the needs of the community throughout the next two decades with paid librarians Barbara Silvers, Barbara Duke, Catherine Morgan and Wilma Gibson continuing to build a collection of books and materials to serve the needs of a growing Madras community.  Children's Story Hours and a Summer Reading Program were provided.  Volunteers were always a mainstay of the library, helping with library duties such as shelving, janitorial work and building maintenance.  The county continued to fund the operation with some help from the city while donations were always needed for extras.

          During the 1980's many changes affected the library --- the Oregon State Library was no longer available as a resource for small libraries; increase in the local population mandated greater circulation of a growing variety of materials, and the electronic age was about to change the entire format of libraries.  The cozy little building on “D” street was quickly becoming obsolete!

  In the late 1980's Carl and Ellen Peterson donated a lot on 7th Street to the Association to be used as the site for a new library building.  Once again the community rallied for a building project.  Grants and donations were obtained and volunteer labor donated just as in the early 1950's.  Many of the same fund-raising ideas were used as during the Depression era: quilt raffles, a dance, and rummage sales.

A new 6000-square-foot building was erected on the site and was completely paid for without having to seek funds from the voters of Jefferson County.  The new building opened in the Fall of 1990 after local volunteers had moved every book hand-over-hand from the old building to the new, just as books had been moved decades before.

In 1995 grants and donations provided the funding for computers, software and scanners while local volunteers bar-coded over 30,000 library items.  This brought the Jefferson County Library into the computer age of technology and services.  The new building quickly became a busy hub for the community, providing children's programs, autograph parties, a biennial quilt show, and a meeting room for organizations to use.

The county was still providing the funding for annual library operations, which were now approaching an annual cost of $100,000.  The city of Madras also donated a small amount.  The rising cost of books, videos, computer equipment and audio material as well as salaries for qualified employees were quickly outgrowing the funds provided.  Other libraries in the state were forming taxing districts to provide stable funding.  The Jefferson County Library Association was one of the few libraries left in the state that had not gone to taxing for funds and consequently was falling behind in meeting state standards for libraries.  In 1999 the Association made the decision, with the approval of the county commissioners, to form its own district following the boundaries of the Educational Service District.

Petitions were circulated to put the new district on the May 16, 2000 ballot and the "Save Our Library" political action committee campaigned diligently to promote the success of this issue.  Two other tax measures were on the same ballot -- one for County Jail operating funds and another for the formation of a Parks and Recreation District.  With a 58% voter turnout, it was a close election and the library district was the only measure to pass.

           The new funding of 43 cents per $1000 of property tax provides the library district with an annual operating budget and allows library services to meet state library standards.  The Jefferson County Library Association deeded the building and its contents, debt-free, to the new library district, and a board of 5 members was elected to serve this district.

Today the Jefferson County Library District continues its efforts to represent the best of all eras.  Much of the furniture from the old buildings has been refurbished and is still being used, while photos on the walls reflect the history of the community.  The library also represents the best of the present with a strong collection of books on tape and CDs, a current fiction collection, six public Internet stations, a lively, busy children’s program, and outreach to the district’s outlying communities in addition to local visits to senior living centers.  Within the next year the library’s catalog will be available on the web for browsing, book requesting, and on-line personal account activities.

A sense of small-town friendliness and personal contact is combined with a constant look toward the future to provide service that will fill the needs of all ages.


For more information about
the Jefferson County Library,
please checkout the book
Pages of the Past
by Kathie Olson's.



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