Volunteer Library creates welcoming community through books
Four small children rush eagerly into the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library. Clearly familiar with their surroundings, the kids immediately know where they are headed. Nearly sprinting towards the children’s section, filled with an array of brightly colored posters, puzzles and an assortment of vibrant books; the kids find their comfortable seating arrangements and immediately begin collaborating with laughter and reading amongst one another.
These children are one of many who come into the Volunteer Library, aware of the fun-loving and educational atmosphere that is provided each day with widened smiled from the various working volunteers and local community members.
About the Library—
The River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library is a non-profit organization that was established in 2003 to alleviate a large discrepancy in the availability of literature in the River Road Santa Clara community. A hefty 30,000 people who live in the River Road and Santa Clara neighborhoods do not have library services because unfortunately they are discriminated for living outside the taxation, causing amenities to be limited from the county’s seven public libraries.
The River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library was created in order to serve the unincorporated citizens living within River Road and Santa Clara, although all patrons are welcome to join. This library provides access to information and technology, building the foundations for life-long learning. The lack of basic library services severely impacts a community’s equality of life, which is exactly why the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library was established.
Becoming a member is extremely simple; all you need it to obtain a library card by paying a yearly membership fee that is available for a mere $15, covering a lot of operating expenses for the library. One membership provides library access for an entire household, which makes things much easier for larger families, especially ones that deal with low-income issues.
Local neighbor, Fonda Hulkum willingly joined the library about three months ago. “Every is extremely nice, especially volunteer coordinator Linda Huston,” she said. “You will not walk in the building without seeing her smiling face, always welcoming others as if it were her home.” Hulkum explained how local community members typically become a member of the library through word of mouth around the neighborhood. She claims that this is a place for the local civilians to meet with one another and is also another outlet to relax in whenever need be.
Saturday is the busiest day at the library, as patrons, retired folks, and individuals with small children typically come in. The age group varies, yet as I have sat in this library I have noticed that typically elder folks come in more occasionally.
Support & Donations—
Supporting this library is rather easy, as any individual or company can help keep this place sustainable by either volunteering time or donating tax-deductible monetary donations, or goods for that matter. The library’s motto strongly exudes the belief that reading is a basic and complete fundamental tool that all lives need in order to fully develop and prosper. Providing affordable access to literature for everyone in this community is what they ultimately hope to achieve.
With a marginal 281 members, the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library hopes to continue their expansion of members, and ultimately upgrade to a larger facility in order to hold more access for the surrounding community.
Most of books that are in the library are donated through non-profit donations, which are tax deductible. There is also a small section of used computers that were donated, allowing Internet access to all members. Occasionally cash donations are given, yet that is more rare compared to other yearly donations, clearly representing the lack of funding that seems to trickle in.
Usually every summer the library receives a grant from the Lane Library League that allows them to run summer reading programs for young children, lasting for a total of six weeks during the summer. In order to keep things running smoothly, the library relies completely on dedicated volunteers that are willing to provide their time in order to upkeep the services. As the library continues to expand, the need for volunteers increases, as more jobs are delegated and time slots needs to be filled.
One Thursday afternoon, seventeen-year-old high school volunteer Christina Chace assisted in loading the pounds of books off of a gray metal cart, placing each novel precisely in the categorized and labeled shelf.
Chace has volunteered at this library for the past 7 months. “The environment is great to walk into each week,” Chace says. “I feel for the River Road library because of how hard they fight to keep their organization running.” It is incredible to see a non-profit organization provide library services to a population that would not have them otherwise.
What’s to Offer & Children Services—
This library holds over 16,000 items, which include a variety of materials beyond novels. Audio books, large print narratives and endless Internet access are separate entities that are provided to all members. Individuals that cannot afford Internet access within their homes are able to come to the library and use these materials freely, as if it were there own home.
As mentioned earlier, since 2005, the library has also offered a free program for children throughout the year and during the summer time as well, in order to encourage education towards the younger generation. At the Children’s Summer and Winter Reading Program, kids are able to work on crafts, listen in on stories, play games, sing songs and most importantly expand their minds through readings.
The library also offers free story time, including weekly themes, arts, crafts, and other hands-on activities that keep children occupied and motivated to read. Parents enjoy these programs because they provide their children with an opportunity to read in a creative and welcoming environment. The volunteers especially enjoy seeing children walk through the door, as they have a reading area strictly dedicated to children’s books in order to increase child literacy and development.
On a sunny morning, kindhearted Nancy Wilhoyte riled up the various children with a brand new supply of vibrant animal coloring books, surprising the kids with one of her many treats and gifts for her favorite young students.
Wilhoyte is the Chilren’s Program Coordinator at the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library. She has a keen eye for making children feel comfortable and willing to learn. “Grandma Nancy,” as the kids call her, currently works on story times for the kids every third Saturday of the month. Wilhoyte claims that she would appreciate a wider variety of children’s novels, as well as a larger space where the kids can play around and have a better opportunity to interact with one another.
Within the River Road district, there have been multiple instances of crime and gang oriented violence’s. Students that attend the local high school have also been known for getting into trouble and dangerous situations, which is why this library offers such an excellent outlet for young children to access early educational opportunities, making their future options much brighter.
The River Road Water Board originally occupied the building that is now being used by the library. It was used to operate the water district, yet the Eugene Water & Electric Board took over, allowing the River Road Water Board to loan out their building to whomever was willing to pay. Thus, the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library came into establishment.
However, this library is still currently donated by the owner of the Water Board, as the library still has to pay for fees in order to maintain operationally. Unfortunately one of the largest issues is simply the lack of funding available to pay monthly rent, noting that if it weren’t for the Water Board, this library would struggle even more to keep the place up and running as they are now.
The River Road area isn’t the nicest of neighborhoods, yet the library has been fortunate enough not to experience issues with crime and violence, however this does not mean they are not susceptible. Vickie Cain, Head Chair at the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library, try’s to keep at least two members at the library at all times for safety purposes. Liability insurance takes out a great deal of money from overall their funds, yet it is necessary in order to keep everything running smoothly. Cain also outreaches towards active members within the River Road district, while she continues to pass out flyers, making it easier for the community to spread positive thoughts through word of mouth.
Unfortunately money is extremely tight within the surrounding communities these days, that other organizations would be strongly supported before a non-profit library would. Though this may subside the drive of other local organizations, the group of volunteers within this library is filled with extremely casual and easygoing folks that share a love for reading and helping out their community in any way possible, no matter what issues or road blocks that may stand in their way.
In relation to the financial issues, another troubling concern is the lack of space within the building. “It would be nice to move into a larger building, or even add on if we had the opportunity so we could add more book shelves,” Wilhoyte says. “We have multiple boxes filled with books that are not being used because we simply do not have the space for them on our shelves.”
Once again, this comes down to the main issue of funding and how there is not enough currency flowing in order to pay for a larger space to rent or purchase for that matter. “If we could generate more interests, get more people enrolling in membership, create more exposure, and take in a greater donation flow, we would be able to improve this library ten fold,” Cain says. Yet, once more people start enrolling that means a larger volunteer base needs to be present, and finding volunteers during this economic downturn is not so easy.
Nevertheless, even with the immense economic issues that are present today, this library has yet to go through much turmoil. The volunteers do an excellent job keeping things organized, contacting individuals that have expired cards, while continuing to outreach positively each day in order to keep this library up and running for all its members and the surrounding communities. Yet it is fairly evident the lack of income that is circulating is halting the library from expanding or relocating.
Public Library Disputes—
The River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library is not connected with the Eugene Public Library. It is specifically set up to serve people within the 97404 zip code area, outside of the city limits. The public library is tax supported, meaning if you don’t live within city limits then you do not pay city taxes. Due to this, citizens in the River Road district would have to pay $120 to have access to the Eugene Public Library.
Head librarian, Cheryl Coleman states her opinion on the matter of separation between city limits. “I understand the entire situation, as I have been a librarian for almost 40 years, and I recognize how libraries are funded,” Coleman says. “Yet for the average citizen you must wonder why a public library is practically unavailable to outside neighborhoods due to costs, even though we are a part of this community just as much as any other resident.” Coleman goes on to explain how these libraries ultimately need to be funded some how, which is where taxes come in, resulting in the higher rate for public libraries.
This non-profit library has set their membership as low as they possible could, while still being successful in making monthly payments, as they are offering services to folks that are not being sufficiently taken care of. Avid volunteer Pat Young assists Coleman and the secretary at the library, having a strict opinion on how the River Road community is being served.
“This is one of the few areas in Oregon that goes underserved, which frankly is not impartial,” Young says. Almost every other municipality that has library services is open for all its residents, yet it’s frustrating for folks that live within the River Road and Santa Clara district that the Eugene Public Library is not as willing to open their doors to other communities without paying taxes. People cannot afford to buy brand new books every time they want to read these days, which is why they provide an inexpensive outlet for individuals to come to.
There has been talk over the years of having a county library system, yet nothing further has been progressed past the studying stages. Huston hopes this will be put into affect, yet will continue to volunteer as much as possible to help her community and keep literacy more affordable and convenient for all. Yet, it’s truly a shame that the library county movement did not progress as far as hoped because it would have been extremely helpful towards providing funding and more opportunities for communities to have access towards public libraries with lost costs.
Linda Huston—Volunteer Coordinator at River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library
Working as a librarian for 31 years, Linda Huston had a desire to get back into her passion for life, working for the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library for the past 9 years as the head volunteer coordinator. Living in the River Road district since 1968, she first came to Eugene to attend the University of Oregon in 1962. Currently, Huston works with a mere nine other nonpaid volunteers. Her position offers support and guidance for individuals that have interest towards volunteering or becoming a member of the library. The library completely relies on the dedication of volunteers to provide and maintain its services, due to how it is non-profit. As the library continues to expand, Huston is in charge of searching for volunteers to continue running the place efficiently. To upkeep this non-profit library, the volunteer members typically seeks donations for new or gently used books. Huston is also involved with the book sales that are held once or twice a year, as well as rummage sales in order to preserve the building and costs. Huston expresses her immense enthusiasm and passion towards offering her assistance to non-profits and the local community as a whole. “I love to read, always have all my life, but I also belong to three different singing groups and that keeps me busy.” It was evident after speaking with Huston, that she loves volunteering, claiming that despite the pay, she feels accomplished with what she is doing, with her resilient and immense passion and joy for life.
Cheryl Coleman—Library and Secretary at River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library
Passionate duck fan, Cheryl Coleman is the head librarian at the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library. Coleman has been a part of this non-profit organization since 2005, as she immediately chose to volunteer her time the moment the opportunity arose. As an active member in the library community, Coleman was able to hear word about this up and coming library before many others. Having been retired, Coleman knew that her passion as a head librarian would never leave her side, as she currently continues her work at the River Road Santa Clara Volunteer Library. Coleman is in charge of keeping track and cataloging all books within the library, as well as making day-to-day decisions for library operations and staff. “I tend to make sure that our money stretches as far as it possibly can, or else we would not be able to uphold this place,” she says. Besides being the head librarian here, Coleman also dedicates her free time towards being one of the head secretaries as well. On top of her multiple tasks, she still finds time to work on Thursdays and Saturdays, yet only when the duck football isn’t in season. Coleman is surprisingly one of the only two volunteers that actually has background experience as a librarian. Her 40 year practice makes her more than eligible to be the head librarian at this library, as any place would be lucky to have her education and knowledge for books as well as her extremely passionate work ethic that she brings to work with her each day.