When voters rejected funding for the Wallowa County Library in November, Enterprise librarian Denine Rautenstrauch knew that her tidy facility would have to serve a larger population. But the increased demand for books and services has exceeded her predictions. The Enterprise Public Library has stepped up to the plate with a second librarian, new books, continued Story Time programs and a stash of the county library’s large print books available for lending.
“We could see that the county library closure would increase our usage a lot,” she said. “But the demand skyrocketed, especially in children’s books. The use and circulation went Phuuuusschhhhttt.” Rautenstrauch made the sounds of an explosion and threw her arms toward the ceiling. Since September, 2018, the Enterprise Public Library’s circulation has increased by 40 percent, including an astounding 54 percent in October 2018.
Prior to June, when the county library closed, the City of Enterprise Public Library served about 65 patrons each day that they were open. Library hours were limited to Monday-Thursday. But visitors nearly doubled to more than 100 patrons per day once the county library shut its doors. Most of the new “customers” were children who had participated in the County’s after school programs. “It’s really hard to truly serve that many people in a day, and give them the attention and help they need,” Rautenstrauch said.
Rautenstrauch appealed to the city for more support. They agreed to add more hours, including Friday and Saturday, keeping the library open six days per week. That spread visitor’s numbers out a bit—and also brought in even more patrons.
“I was really thrilled with the city,” Rautenstrauch said. “They really listened. When our patron and circulation numbers started going up, they squeezed out money for an 18-hour/week assistant librarian.” And so, Enterprise added Amber Edwards to the Library staff. “I love being surrounded by books,” Edwards said. “A lot of what I do is helping with interlibrary loans, and helping kids.” Edwards volunteered at the library before being hired. She works Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Recently, a $2,600 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services funded more than 100 new children’s books and two generous, anonymous donors provided $500 each for new book shelves to house them. The additions gave the library’s children’s area a new life and new look. In addition to standard library fare, you’ll find toys, puzzles, and even a puppet theater on the first floor. The children’s collection will continue to grow, Rautenstrauch said. “We have a $400 grant from Soroptimists, and a matching $800 Pilcrow Foundation Children’s Book Project grant for rural libraries.
The county library’s Children’s Story Time programs for pre-schoolers have a new life at the Enterprise Public Library. Building Healthy Families took over the funding that supported StoryTime, and has continued support for the program, which is run by Jill Dougherty. Between 10 and 20 preschoolers and their parents participate every Thursday from 10:30-11:30.
The Story Time program includes a new feature: a toy exchange. “If you give a child a toy, sometimes they get tired of playing with it after awhile,” Rautenstrauch said. “The toy exchange allows children or their parents to bring in a toy that isn’t used much, and swap it for something they like better.” The selection includes games, puzzles, stuffed and soft toys, and educational toys. “Exchanging toys seems really appropriate for a library,” she said.
No matter how welcome and necessary, the Enterprise Library’s new services, longer hours and additional staff have stretched the City of Enterprise’s budget. “I hope the county commissioners will offer the city a stipend,” Rautenstrauch said. “I hope they’ll see what closing the county library has done, how much these services are needed and used by the community, and help us continue them.”