Not As Simple As It Seems

By Katie Fischer, Outreach Services, Roseburg Public Library

Picture a Jackson Pollock painting. Up close, it seems like a chaotic mess. There are flicks and splotches of paint everywhere you look, a myriad of colors and shapes. When you’re a foot away from the painting, there doesn’t appear to be any cohesion or harmony. None of it makes sense, and for a moment you wonder why Jackson Pollock is so revered.

Then you step back several feet, and suddenly you can see the whole picture. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a chaotic mess anymore. Like drops of water coming together to form an ocean, the individual flicks of paint have become a beautiful summation of color and vibrancy.

Four women dressed as witches. Three are wearing black and have pointy hats, the fourth is dressed like a Hogwarts student from the Harry Potter series. They all have wands.
Halloween at Roseburg Public Library

This is how I feel about working at the library. Day to day, working at Roseburg Public Library is a controlled chaos – a never-ending flow of programs to plan, patrons to help, and books to shelve. At the time, it all feels very separated and disjointed. One moment you’re helping a patron access their email, a moment later you’re trying to plan a Harry Potter book club, and then you find yourself trying to fix the very expensive 3D printer on loan from the Douglas County Education Service District. No day is the same, and your week can go from well-planned and orderly to a logistical Gordian knot in the span of a single meeting.

When I started my year of service, this lack of consistency and structure frustrated me. I was standing a foot away from the painting, without even realizing that there was a bigger picture at all. Over the months, I’ve been able to step back and see beauty in the chaos. Like a Pollock painting, a library is so much more than the individual programs, patrons, volunteers, and books that it offers. Up close, it can be difficult to sum up what a library provides to a community, especially a community that didn’t always have a library. But all the programs, all the patrons, all the volunteers, all the books coalesce into one thing – sanctuary. A safe place for anyone to learn, engage, get inspired, and simply be. Want to pick up a new hobby? Come to the library, we’ll help you find one. Want to make a new friend? Attend some of our programs and book clubs. Want to read stories that expand your worldview? Come check out our collection. Want a place where you can read, work, and simply exist in peace? There’s a place for you here.

Working here, I was able to find sanctuary as well. I found a place where I felt like I could truly help people, a place where I didn’t feel judged or out of place. Within a week of working at Roseburg Public Library, I knew that I wanted to become a librarian. I found my dream job early on in life, and for that I will always be grateful.

However, working at a library isn’t always pleasant or fun. There can be tough decisions, and tough moments. There have been times where I’ve had to comfort patrons who were in a lot of pain, and help them feel like their thoughts and feelings were truly being heard. There have been times where we’ve had to call paramedics in because of medical emergencies. There are times when I’ve encountered rude, mean, and insensitive patrons that make me want to buy stress balls in bulk.

Two adult volunteers and two young children sit at a large table, each has a computer open in front of them.
Girls Who Code -Introductory Scratch Coding

At first glance, Roseburg doesn’t seem that remarkable. I thought it was a typical town in Oregon, albeit a little rough around the edges. But I quickly proved myself wrong. Roseburg is full of people who care and are passionate about their town. People who are passionate about seeing their town thrive and adapt. I get to see a side of this passion at the library, from patrons, volunteers, and community members who are enthusiastic about learning and engaging with their community. This is a town full of heart, and I’m lucky that I get to experience it myself. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity here to see beauty in the chaos.

In the short time that I’ve worked here, the library has taught, or at least reinforced, a lot of lessons for me. Work with what you have, not with what you want. Realize that people are simply trying to get by, no matter who they are or what they do. Enjoy the little things, because that’s what life is all about, in the end. But most of all, I’ve learned that everyone, whether knowingly or unknowingly, just wants to be heard. They want to know that someone is listening, that someone cares, that someone is there to connect with.

On paper, a library seems simple. A place for books to be checked in and out, over and over again, leaving and returning like an ocean tide. But in reality, a library is so much more than a simple repository of books. It’s a place for the community to meet, engage, and get inspired. It’s a place where teens can come and not feel pressured from the demands of school and the future, a place where local groups can meet and support each other, a place where parents can introduce their children to the joy of reading and storytelling, and most of all, a place where anyone is free to learn and exist without judgement or expectations. Together, all of these services make up the colorful, chaotic, and invaluable Roseburg Public Library.

Photo of the author. She is wearing a bright tie-dye shirt and standing in front of a red flowering currant.About the author, Katie Fischer: Katie has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from University of Oregon in Eugene, OR. During college she volunteered with the Eugene Public Library’s Maker Hub and worked as an undergraduate researcher for UO’s Soil + Water Lab, where she completed a year-long research project analyzing soil contamination in agricultural topsoil. Despite being born and raised in Minnesota, she now considers herself an Oregonian, and looks forward to exploring everything Oregon has to offer.

Does community development work interest you? Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon? Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: 

Sunday – The Most Fun Day of the Week

By Brian Saunders, Outreach Coordinator, Travel Lane County/Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative

When someone hears the word Sunday, there are a number of things that might go through that person’s mind. Some think football, others may think a day of relaxation. For me, I now think of my Sundays as my ‘Fun-Days.”

It all started on a cloudy Sunday morning around 7:30 am. It was a typical morning- I yawned, I stretched, showered, made breakfast, and read two chapters of an exciting book I was reading at the time. Now, on a normal Sunday, a hike or jump back into bed might be the way to go after spending a week in the office. However, this Sunday was going to be different. I had a planned event on a Sunday. Not a Friday or a Saturday, but Sunday…at 2pm.

Group of people gathered in a circleMy day was already a little thrown off, but I just rolled with the punches. Afterall, I was tabling a National Geographic Event in downtown Eugene, Oregon where I just moved cross country about 5 weeks prior. To me, it really did not get much cooler than that. Setting up for the event was awesome; I met new people, interacted with some amazing environmental organizations, and got to keep busy on what would otherwise be just another lazy Sunday.

Truthfully, while I was setting up my table, I thought, “Wow, a cup of tea and a movie would really be a great way to prepare for a busy week tomorrow.” Then it hit me. I was already preparing for my busy week by staying active in my community and being present when I needed to be. It’s bizarre how it hit me right there on the spot, but from that moment on, there has been a new drive instilled in me. Sometimes I like to think it was just a random moment in time in this 23-year-old life of mine, but when I think deep down, I know it comes down to the RARE program and them placing me where I needed to be. Working for the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative (ODRC) has not only provided me with meaningful work that I am extremely passionate about, but it has also allowed me to explore some of the most beautiful sand dunes on this planet. Most importantly, the RARE program and the ODRC has taught me to slow down and to appreciate what is in front of me. There are many things I am appreciative for in life, but I will forever be grateful for RARE which has provided me with an awesome opportunity to grow, learn, and evolve as a young man. This opportunity has already sprouted growth in my personal and professional career, and I am excited to see where that takes me beyond this term of service.

Author wearing a life vest, sitting on a raftRARE has moved me across the country to my favorite state, connected me with amazing people, provided me with unconditional support, and instilled a new drive in me that is incredibly refreshing. Being surrounded by all the amazing people in my community and in the RARE program has broadened my perspective and left me feeling more inspired than ever. Seeing the success stories of everyone else really keeps me going forward. Now when I wake up tired on a Sunday, going back to bed is usually never an option. I need my real Sunday Fun-Days and those days include driving to the coast early morning, pulling Scotch Broom with some great company, going on a hike, or just exploring the beautiful state of Oregon. RARE made me realize how lucky I am to be where I am, doing what I do. Sometimes just being with the right people at the right time can really spark a change. Although I was (and still am) a motivated, fresh college graduate, ready to take on the world, something about pushing myself and sacrificing my normal wind down time for community engagement made me realize how great life can be sometimes.

Well, it is now Friday afternoon and before I know it, Sunday morning will arrive. Who knows what the agenda will be like for this Sunday, all I know is that thanks to RARE, the most boring day of the week turned into a day I can look forward to!

Photo of the authorAbout the author, Brian Saunders: Brian grew up in a small town of 6,000 people in Connecticut. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Geography in the Spring of 2019, Brian was eager to come back to Oregon where he has been visiting for the past 6-7 years. During his senior year of college, Brian worked as an intern for a local non-profit food security organization. Brian loves to spend his time playing soccer, snowboarding, and biking.

Does community development work interest you? Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon? Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: