The Almeda and Obenchain fires have brought another huge hardship to our community, so when we heard that Jackson County Library Services was launching a book and toy drive for children and teens impacted by the fires, we knew that the Ashland Friends would want to be a part of it. And you really stepped up! Karen Spence’s front porch overflowed with books and toys and games for all ages, and we took two stuffed loads to the Medford Library for distribution throughout the county. Youth Services Coordinator Brystan Strong reported that the whole drive was an enormous success. Thanks so much to everyone who contributed!
Fortunately, no Ashland staff lost their homes to the fire, although several had harrowing commutes that day. However, many district-wide staff were displaced due to the evacuations, and three staff–from Jacksonville Branch, IT, and Digital Services–lost their homes. Seven libraries were closed for a week.
Despite all this, the JCLS administration and staff jumped into action after the fires.
For example, Ashland Adult Services Librarian Ken Loders spearheaded the effort to create a Fire Response and Recovery Resource Guide that has been added to the website (jcls.org). The Outreach to Child Care team donated 172 new Spanish language books and 60 new English language books to local preschool programs heavily impacted by the fire.
Library Director Kari May reported that there was an immediate increase in computer use due to fire victims placing insurance claims, getting new driver licenses, updating voter registrations and requesting new vital records documents. Printing fees are waived for all these cases.
Our Ashland Library Manager, Kristin Anderson, reported that the Ashland Children’s Department has helped families find books about fire, fire fighters, and feeling scared. Ashland staff have also been available for people to share their stories, helping to reinforce the library as a place for community. Evacuated families have also created a new market for the “Take and Make” kits, to give children something fun to do during a traumatic time. In addition, the use of Ashland’s free Wi-Fi service increased after the fire. On Thursday, September 10th, the library’s Information Technology Department recorded twice the normal usage.
It is heartening to see how essential library services are in a crisis, and it reaffirms the importance of the support we provide as Friends. In January, we’ll get back to you regarding 2021 membership. Meanwhile, remember that the Ashland Library is currently open noon-4 pm each day except Friday, and the dynamic Jackson County Library Services website is always open at jcls.org.