Tiny north state community pulls together and wins big grant

On the northern border of California’s high desert is the Dorris Public Library, the smallest of the 45 public libraries awarded funds from the Library Bond Act of 2000.

Though many large libraries may call on planning specialists to help prepare planning documents for grant applications, tiny Dorris (with a projected service area population of only 2,200 by the year 2020) didn’t have that luxury. Instead, the Dorris community took action. A group of concerned individuals, library staff members, and city, county, and school district officials and employees formed the Dorris Library Building Committee to define Dorris’s need for a new library.

All applicants for Bond Act grant funds must conduct a library needs assessment and develop a library services plan to determine the types of public library services most suitable for the community that the library will serve. To do Dorris’s plan, the grant writers imaginatively examined their community by holding general community meetings and distributing surveys to stores, city hall, and local schools, among other places; by visiting classes in the schools to gather information directly from the students; and by conducting interviews and focus groups.

The writers were realistic as they drafted their needs assessment. Recognizing that the community couldn’t have everything on its library “wish list,” their plan delayed additional library services until funding might be available. As a result, Dorris had one of the highest rated needs assessments of any grant application since the Bond Act’s start in 2000.

“We did it all!”

Patricia Harper, Siskiyou County Librarian, the library director in charge of the winning grant application, says, “We had no outside assistance – we [library staff and community members] did it all!”  Harper and the community team, for example, made their own video for the application. “I got my camera out, and shot it in one take with no rehearsals,” she said. The Dorris volunteer who narrated the video, Harper reports, simply spoke from the heart.

One generous member of the Dorris Library Building Committee (who wishes to remain anonymous) donated real estate on one of the city’s busiest streets for the new library. The donated site is appropriately sized for both the library building (which will be 3300 square feet) and library parking, and is within easy walking distance of the preschool, elementary school, and high school.

Further evidence of the community’s teamwork is that the Dorris Library will be a joint-use facility, the product of a genuine partnership between the City of Dorris, the County of Siskiyou, and the Butte Valley Unified School District. When the library opens, a student advisory board will provide input about library services; the school district will provide educational software; and trained volunteers will assist school staff in the library homework center after school.

Harper says working with the library staff, the Dorris Building Committee, and the Friends of the Library at the community events was “a wonderful experience” that gave her fresh insights into Dorris. While working on the needs assessment for example, she heard why patrons so badly want music CDs in the library —Dorris doesn’t have radio reception.

The Dorris City Council is in full support of the Dorris Library project. “Our support has been amazing,” exudes Harper.

 

Although all grant funds from the Library Bond Act of 2000 have been awarded to library jurisdictions throughout California, voters will decide whether to provide an additional $600 million for public library construction and renovation in the June 2006 primary election. Last year Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill by Senator Dede Alpert that authorizes a vote of the people in the proposed 2006 Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act, a copy of which is can be found on the Office of Library Construction web site at: http://olc.library.ca.gov/legislation.asp.

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