I am a librarian from rural southern Oregon, and my community is a stereotype. NPR correspondent Jeff Brady visited our town during the summer of 2017 for a story highlighting rural communities in decline (Brady, 2017). We were a convenient case study. Our natural resource industry has been dying a slow and loud death for decades, our voters have notoriously voted down numerous tax levies, and Jeff Brady just happened to grow up here. Brady being a national business correspondent from Philadelphia, we were the perfect stereotype for a piece that closed with his grim statement: “Overall, the economic prospects for my hometown of Gold Beach, Oregon, look dim. Fortunately there’s always the beautiful beach, the river, and the forests to console those who still live here.” Despite the inevitable feeling of this conclusion, Brady could have asked much different questions and listened to different voices that would have resulted in a story about much more than malaise. In fact, when presented with innovative changes taking place, Brady commented to our library staff that a storyline of innovative change in its early stages would not help NPR make the point their audience wanted to hear.

I start with this story because librarians are extremely susceptible to the very mistake made by this NPR correspondent. We see what we want to see, and the decisions that follow (particularly in small rural communities) are more often than not rejected by the community because they do not truly address immediate needs. As for that Southern Oregon stereotype, our voters certainly fit the stereotype of being skeptical of paying taxes, but few taxpayers I have encountered are unwilling to pay taxes when the government entity in question has proven to be successful in addressing what they perceive as community needs. Working with this model, I believe Gold Beach is in the early phases of a renaissance rooted in the library’s community needs-based planning. Here is our story.

Author Biography

Jeremy Skinner has been the Library Director for Curry Public Library since 2014. Previously, he worked as a special collections librarian and archivist at Lewis and Clark College. In addition to his work as a librarian, Jeremy is a historian who has written about the history of books, publishing, and literature. His area of focus is Oregon’s literary history. Jeremy serves on the boards of a number of non-profits that support education and development in rural Oregon. Contact Jeremy at 541-247-3452 or at jeremy@cplib.net.

Copyright statement

© 2017 Jeremy Skinner



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