WCCLS is a partnership between the County, nine cities and three non-profit organizations to provide public library service to all county residents. A “cooperative” structure like this is rather unusual in Oregon, but it was chosen as a way to link together existing public libraries and services with an overlay of county funding. This partnership started in 1976—think 70’s co-ops and sharing!
The County does 3 things in the partnership: First, the County is the primary funding source for public library operations—in 2017-2018 over $24.5 million or about 75% of the whole WCCLS budget will be distributed to member libraries for operations. Second, WCCLS provides support services that link libraries together such as the library catalog and website, courier deliveries, technology and content such as Wi-Fi, e-book subscriptions, databases, and publicity, youth services support, etc. Third, WCCLS provides outreach to special populations including mail delivery to Homebound residents, outreach to residents who speak languages other than English, early literacy training and outreach, and books for the Jail Library. WCCLS also manages the West Slope Library, which is the only county-run library in the system.
Local determination and decision-making is a time-honored principle. Member libraries provide facilities, determine local policies, staffing, programs, hours, etc., and agree to “play well with others” by providing all borrowers the same high quality service.
Funding: where does it come from? About 60% of WCCLS funding comes from the County's General Fund—it is the remnant of our serial levy that was rolled into the County’s General Fund tax base in 1998 by Ballot Measure 50. The County has continued to direct those funds to WCCLS. The other 40% of the money comes from the countywide local option levy. The 5-year levy was passed by voters in 2015 and runs from 2016-2021.
Committees: As a “cooperative” we expect participatory decision-making. This is like a marriage of 13. The WCCLS Policy Group (the directors of the member libraries) and the WCCLS Executive Board (the Chief Administrators of the libraries) are advisory to WCCLS and Washington County. The Policy Group has multiple committees to advise it on various service areas, such as WCCLS Users Group, Adult Services, Youth Services, and Publicity.