PUBLIC PROFILE: Amy Drake, Executive Director, Jackson County Library Foundation
Rogue Valley Messenger: Just to be clear: You’re not operating the library, “just” raising money to help keep it operating?
Amy Drake: Your property taxes cover the operating budget of the library, which is managed by the Jackson County Library District Board and the Jackson County Library staff. The Foundation is the independent philanthropic partner of the libraries, and your donations and community support help our libraries to flourish and thrive. All contributions go to support county-wide programs, capital improvements, and exciting, innovative new projects.
RVM: Doesn’t the library have enough money from taxes and such?
AD: Foundation funding is used to support new, innovative projects, such as the upcoming Idea Lab in Central Point. The Idea Lab will be a teen-focused technology center and Homework Hub that will be a digital play space for teens to explore their passions and interest. We also support programs that are not appropriate uses of taxpayer dollars, like Outreach to Child Care’s book give away to children ages 0-6.
RVM: Where does the foundation’s funding come from?
AD: Our funding comes from people like you in our community who love our libraries. We seek donations from individuals, businesses, and other foundations to help support the libraries. We just wrapped up a fundraiser for Outreach to Child Care that was supported completely by community members, and because of their support, we’ll be able to give one book to every child in the Outreach to Child Care program. We have a small endowment with the Oregon Community Foundation too.
RVM: The library did away with late fees starting this year. That seems counterintuitive. Doesn’t the library need funds?
AD: It’s important to ensure that all Jackson County residents are able to access the library whenever they need it. Libraries are one of the few places in our society where everyone of all demographics spend time, and they’re one of the few places where culture is easily accessible to all people. Fines are an inequitable barrier to service, disproportionately impacting children and community members with the least financial resources. What’s more, late fees are only .68% of projected revenues for this fiscal year – a drop in the bucket. The library will still charge patrons for losing or damaging checked out items to make sure that books, movies, etc. are available to all.
RVM: Do you remember when you first recognized the importance of libraries for yourself or your community?
AD: I was in elementary school, and during the summer my mom would take my sister and me to the library for the summer reading program. I was one of those kids who snuck a flashlight to bed with me so I could read under the covers while my parents pretended they didn’t know what I was doing. It was wonderful to surround myself with books that lead me on new adventures, and I knew that the library was one of my gateways to the world outside my lived experience.
RVM: What’s your opinion about reading books on Kindles?
AD: Call me old school, but I’m not an ebook user. I like the feel of paper and the weight of a book in my hands. The library offers Hoopla and Library2Go, two digital media services, and I use both for music, audiobooks, and movies (all for free!). I do envy others the convenience of having all their reading material on one device, especially while traveling. Maybe someday I’ll convert! Until then, I’ll keep the stack of books on my nightstand.
RVM: Recommend a favorite read—either from the last year or a classic?
AD: I just finished a graphic novel called “The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg.” It’s a series of fables from an imaginary world’s prehistory that tells a seemingly tragic love story. It incorporates various mythologies, a bird-headed god and his children, witty illustration, and much more. I loved her world building and how the different mythologies were woven together to tell the story.