News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Every Book is a New Adventure – Mill City Public Library reopens after COVID, fires

The Mill City Public Library has re-opened after almost three years of remaining closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfires, and both patrons and volunteers are encouraged to drop by.

The library officially reopened Jan. 6 at Mill City Presbyterian Church (236 SW Broadway St.), where they rent a room adjacent to the sanctuary. It is currently open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a break for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.; and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

The program is unique in that the library is operated by a nonprofit board, unlike other libraries that are part of official service districts. The board was incorporated in 2001 by a group of schoolteachers who saw a need for a community library, and has remained private and independent for more than two decades, without tax support and entirely through volunteers.

Librarian Ruth Higgs was the only volunteer as of the reopening and said, though she enjoys the work and pushed hard to reopen, she has a life outside the library and the program desperately needs more helpers.

“We’re having a heck of a time getting volunteers,” she said. “…We’re open to anyone who’s willing.”

The library has a more casual feel than others, said Higgs, with all books organized by author rather than divided into sections based on subject, though kids books have their own shelves. 

Computers and a printer are available for patrons at the Mill City Public Library, which reopened Jan. 6 after closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfires.
Computers and a printer are available for patrons at the Mill City Public Library, which reopened Jan. 6 after closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfires.

There are also computers and a printer available for public use, and plenty of chairs and table space.

Higgs said she could not estimate how many volumes were in circulation, but said there were once 10,000 books when the library was previously housed at City Hall. However all books were lost when City Hall was burned down by arson in 2010, and the books at the current location were all donated since then.

“We just started asking for people to donate books and whatnot and we got a lot of them,” she said. “Some of them we can use and some of them we really can’t.”

Higgs said they aren’t able to use books like encyclopedias because patrons are more accustomed to using online reference resources these days,  some other books are in poor condition and won’t make it to the shelves. Still other books,
like the works of Clive Cussler and James Patterson, are checked out regularly.

Higgs said there’s not much need for further book donations at this time, as they have a back room with shelves of books waiting to be put into circulation. Their primary need is for volunteers, and those who are interested in helping can reach out to the library at 503-897-6149.

Higgs said, with the library back open, it’s an opportunity for the community to find and enjoy a good book in a laid-back atmosphere that feels more like a reading room than an academic setting.

“It’s not like a school library where you can go to a specific area of the library and get a book on a specific subject,” she said. “Mostly it’s just for enjoyment for people to read and enjoy themselves.”

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