Since the Reading Outreach in Clatsop County program started eight years ago, more than 700 kids in rural towns now have library cards to public libraries that previously weren’t accessible to them.
But the most distinct change ROCC outreach coordinator Suzanne Harold said she has seen has been cultural: excitement about reading.
“I remember after organizing the summer reading program in Hilda Lahti some of the kids wrote me letters, saying things like ‘I never realized the library was cool,’ or thinking they might want to become a librarian,” she said.
In the effort to continue this enthusiasm, ROCC raised $5,500 in a county auction March 23 as a way to keep funding their work to ensure kids in the county have the same library access as a kid would in towns with public libraries like Warrenton, Seaside and Astoria. Before ROCC, kids in the county would pay a fee for a public library card, providing a financial barrier to many families.
The second annual auction filled the Seaside Convention Center with about 90 different auction items, ranging from wine baskets and children’s books to winning a free little library that someone can put outside their house to share books around the community.
The money raised at the event will go to funding the outreach coordinator in charge of organizing summer reading programs, as well as the courier system that allows kids in the county to return public library books to their school libraries. This helps alleviate the long drive that used to be a barrier for rural users, event organizer and Seaside Library Director Esther Moberg said.
The prizes differ from each year to the next, but the goal of ROCC remains the same.
“We are serving 700 children, but there are 920 who could be served in the county. We want every kid to have access to a library card,” Moberg said. “When this program was started, we asked ‘How can every kid in this county be successful?’ Reading is a place to start.”
Moberg said she hopes to keep building up the auction as ROCC transitions from getting funded by grants to relying mostly on community support and donations. For the first five years, ROCC relied on federal grants. But due to grant competition and proposed cuts to the budget that funds this grant from the Trump Administration, curating community financial support is increasingly more crucial.
“Showing community support is also an important part of the grant process, as well,” Harold said.
Jane Tucker, the former director of the Astoria Public Library, attended the event and was at the forefront of developing ROCC eight years ago, and said she is proud of the program’s impact.
“We seek to tear down any barrier from children reading,” Tucker said. “This is the reason I did what I did, why I chose the career I did. Without literacy you can’t do anything else. That’s why it’s so important to give as much access to reading as possible.”