|Apr 10, 2012 --
Outline of Need:
If you ask small town librarian Louise Shelden, the Union Library in rural northeastern Oregon is kind of like the heartbeat of a community. Here, local residents ranging from infants to the elderly have found knowledge, art, entertainment and inspiration at this historic library since 1912. Small communities like Union, however, often struggle to find money in their limited municipal budgets to support such vital public services and care for aging facilities, especially during an economic downturn.
“We’ve been holding our breath and figuring out what to do to keep our library going,” Shelden said. “It’s such an integral part of our community.”
To make matters worse, the library’s aging furnace began to fail last year. With the prospect of service needs and repair calls burdening an already tight budget, Shelden recalled, “It got kind of scary.”
How Rural Development Helped:
In August of 2010, the City of Union applied for and was awarded a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Grant of nearly $4,000 for the installation of a new furnace and air conditioner. The City of Union was able to fund the remainder of the cost through their own reserves.
With new, efficient heating and cooling units in place, the Union Library began to save money in energy costs right away. “We noticed a one-third savings over the winter,” said City Administrator Sandra Patterson. “This is a lot, especially when you struggle to provide the service in the first place.”
The relatively small investment from USDA Rural Development and the resulting decrease in energy costs have helped the Union Library continue to serve the community. This has been especially important during an economically stagnant time when local residents turned to their public library more and more to save money on purchases and entertainment.
“We have nearly doubled our circulation and patronage in the last year,” explained Shelden, “We went from roughly 7,500 visits in 2009 to almost 14,000 visits in 2010.”
Program: Community Facilities
Investment: $7,205 grant
Partner: City of Union
Population Served: 2,000
Community Impact: 13,860 library visits in 2010