Coos and Curry counties are large, sparsely populated counties covering 3,617 square miles with dispersed population centers. Distances of over sixty miles between some libraries make resource sharing vital. This fact required a creative approach in the delivery of library services to assure that information and recreational resources were both accessible to all the people and supported financially in a cost-effective and equitable way. In 1978, the Coos County Library Association (CCLA) was awarded an Oregon State Aid grant of $10,000 to fund a study to assess the services being provided in Coos County and the ways in which they were funded in order to plan for future needs. Librarians and trustees had been meeting together through the CCLA for some time, carrying out cooperative activities. At the time, the six independently funded public libraries in Coos County (Coos Bay, North Bend, Coquille, Bandon, Myrtle Point and Powers) were serving out-of-county residents at a net loss although the County did provide an average annual reimbursement of $0.80 per person to defray the cities’ expenses. The study proved extremely valuable and the CCLA adopted most of its recommendations, developing a plan for cooperative services to be located at the community college and for city library service funding, based on population and out-of-city circulation.
County and city governments all backed this recommendation and a three year serial levy was placed on the ballot by county commissioners for September 18, 1979 in the amount of $632,000 – an amount equivalent to about $10.00 per person per year. A contract between the county commissioners, the cities and the college was signed which outlined the services to be provided and the method of funding. The governance structure for the Coos Cooperative Library Service was determined, providing for appointment of a 17 member advisory board to oversee the operation of the levy and advise the county commissioners. The method of distribution of serial levy funds was a two-part formula based on $10 per capita plus the percentage of out-of-county circulation for each public library in the year 1979-1980. Cooperative services would be provided by the college for a set dollar figure. The 1979 election was very successful. The levy passed by a healthy margin and went into effect on July 1, 1980. Funds from the levy replaced city funding for library operations. While cities were relieved of paying operational costs, they agreed to continue responsibility for indirect administrative costs and for library facilities.
Serial levy dollars were also distributed to Southwestern Oregon Community College to provide cooperative countywide public library services such as courier delivery, reference, books-by-mail, satellite libraries, interlibrary loan and the countywide union catalog through the creation of the Extended Services Office (which was moved to the city of Coos Bay in 2014), relieving the college of using its general budget for those services. With the second serial levy in 1984 the Outreach program was initiated as the newest service of the Coos Cooperative Library Service. The Extended Services Office began serving inmates at the Coos County Jail as well as providing library services to nursing homes, adult foster homes and the homebound. In 1989, libraries in the city of Lakeside and the unincorporated area of Dora were added to the Cooperative and began receiving funds from the serial levy. Voters continued to support countywide public library service funding by approving these temporary serial levies at the polls. While this was an effective way to fund library services, it was also unreliable, as libraries were faced with closure if voters ever failed to approve new levies every three years.
The threat of passage of the statewide Measure 5 tax limitation measure made this form of funding even more uncertain. For almost five years, the library community, including county and city representatives, worked toward a more stable form of funding. Formation of a county library service district with a separate dedicated tax base was the final recommendation. Formation of this type of district was picked, in part, because it was seen to be less expensive, as there would not need to be a separate layer of administration. A master plan to govern the new district was written over several months and approved by all parties. The plan outlined governance and operational issues, funding, and powers and responsibilities of the various parties. The plan called for continuance of the basic library operational structure that had existed since 1979 whereby Coos County would collect tax base dollars and distribute them to the cities, to the Dora Corporation, and to the College. In return for operating expenses, these entities agreed to use funds allocated to them for public library purposes only, to continue covering indirect and overhead costs of service provision, and to be responsible for library buildings.
The Master Plan became the basis for library district formation. The County Commissioners initiated an order approving the Master Plan and sending the matter of district formation to Coos County voters in the November 1992 general election. Voters overwhelmingly approved formation of the Coos County Library Service District and establishment of a permanent tax base for the new unit of government. The county, cities, college and Dora Corporation then entered into a contract that ratified provisions of the Master Plan. The terms of that contract remain unchanged today. Coos County Library Service District consists of eight public libraries in communities spread throughout Coos County.
The District has created a united library catalog and circulation system named “Coastline”, through which all member libraries share their materials freely to all residents of Coos County. With the addition in 1996 of two school libraries from School District 41, Myrtle Point, Coastline now numbers twelve circulating sites, with a catalog of more than 400,000 titles and 650,000 items. In 2011-2012 Coastline libraries checked out 923,531 items and filled 153,284 hold requests for patrons system-wide. Patrons in Coos county used the online catalog to renew 55,539 items.
The Extended Services Office (ESO) is located in the Coos Bay Public Library. This is the office from which all of the contracted services provided for the public libraries of Coos County originate. The County contracts through an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Coos Bay to administer the cooperative activities requested by Coos County Library Service District. The ESO activities are funded from the countywide public library tax base, not by city funds. The ESO coordinates a variety of cooperative extended services on behalf of the eight public libraries in Coos County in order to best serve the needs of Coos County residents.
Coos County Library Service District operates a delivery van that delivers items among libraries in Coos County. The van drivers logged more than 40,914 miles in 2011-12, transporting 17,070 crates of materials throughout the county. This equates to 256 tons of material delivered. The delivery van not only visits the eight public libraries and Southwestern Oregon Community College but also stops weekly at Coastline member libraries at Myrtle Point High School and Myrtle Crest during the school year. Other high schools and libraries are visited as needed. The current van schedule includes services six days a week Monday through Saturday. Van delivery staff pick up and deliver interlibrary loan requests as well as library books, magazines, videos, CD’s, books-on-tape and other materials. This includes transporting back to their “home libraries” materials which patrons have checked out at one library and found it more convenient to return to another. This service is part of the benefits provided by the Coos County Library Service District to all residents of Coos County. This allows patrons full access to all material available at the participating libraries.
On March 6, 2017 Curry County’s five public libraries (all independent special district libraries) joined the Coos County public libraries to form a dual-county library network of 14 libraries in the Coastline catalog and circulation system. This joint effort expanded the Coastline system to serve 100,000 people on the southern Oregon coast and provide access to over 640,000 library items. Patrons of both counties are able to place holds on items in any of the 14 libraries or use the libraries to checkout materials directly and use any of the libraries resources in person. Both counties provide a regular courier service to deliver these items to the libraries.
The benefits for both counties made a shared network highly desirable. By adding five new libraries to the network Coos County libraries received membership fees from Curry County libraries to help fund technical support for the Coastline system. The five additional libraries added over 175,000 items to their catalog from Curry County. Per capita spending on library materials in Curry County is comparable, and in some cases higher than spending in Coos County, meaning that the merger should enhance the overall access of Coos County residents to library materials. After developing an intergovernmental agreement, the Curry County Libraries were granted $48,111 through the State of Oregon’s Library Services & Technology Act program to pay for necessary data cleanup and migration work prior joining Coastline.