Closeness of the RARE Community

By Paige Crenshaw, Rural Organizing Project

At RARE orientation, I remember looking around the room as our fearless program leader, Titus, stressed that this room contained our new best friends. As he went on explaining the RARE “family” I remember chuckling to myself. Not that I didn’t think I would become friends with the others in my cohort, but because the word family felt over-the-top. A bit comical, even.

My oh my. How that has changed! In the many months since that initial meeting, I’ve crisscrossed the state of Oregon, visiting RARE friends from northeastern Oregon to my new home in the south. I’ve traversed snowy mountain passes and made my way to the coast and gotten a flat tire here and there. I’ve seen the cowboys of Lakeview and sang karaoke in Roseburg and watched the sun go down over Pendleton. I’ve spent many an evening in the Applegate Valley drinking wine and looking at the stars with the best friend I could ever ask for.

I drove down to the coast a few months ago with another RARE member and friend. It was incredible. Oh, goodness. Erica and I sat on this little rock ledge overlooking the most insane ocean landscape. We both are from the Midwest, and were always marveling at the open sky and bigness of it all. We had spent the afternoon laughing and walking around the mystic redwoods. Between bites of slightly-stale Gardeto’s and chocolate-covered granola, I remember looking at the grandness of the landscape in front of us in silence. I burst out laughing in pure amazement as they turned to me and said, “How the hell did we get here?”

The RARE community organically lends itself to cultivating intense and inspiring relationships. When hearing uniquely talented minds talk about the nature of our world, its people, and its cultures, we can become transformed and inspired, both personally and professionally.

If you’re looking to join the RARE program, remember that wherever you land, you exist in such a unique place in the world. You are able to put yourself in the way of beauty every single day, intentionally or not. Please don’t let yourself lose sight of that. Learn to trust yourself and to appreciate the closeness of the RARE community. Try not to wait until your last couple of months to notice the special place you’ve chosen to spend a snapshot of your life. But also remember that the world is vast and inviting outside of a small rural Oregon town, and the work you will do after RARE, whether it be as a city planner, educator, farmer…is so important.

Photo of author wearing a black shirt and glasses, standing in front of a red flowering currantAbout the author, Paige Crenshaw: Originally hailing from Chicago, IL, Paige studied Sustainable Community Development and Sociology & Social Justice at Northland College in Ashland, WI. After working on both urban and rural farms of different scales during her undergraduate years, Paige developed her own food ethic and understanding of what the relationships between and across food, soil, regional development means for community resilience and long-term sustainability. This understanding led her to explore other facets of community work, spanning multiple sectors — public health, sustainable food systems, and cross-community collaboration. Paige is thrilled to dig into potential and existing possibilities for community development in Southern Oregon. Paige is also jazzed about swimming in natural bodies of water, tidal pools, contra dancing, and garlic.

A New Kind of Busy at the Library

By Katie Fischer, Outreach Services, Roseburg Public Library

Author and fellow RARE member standing by a river, backs to camera

On March 15th, Roseburg Public Library closed to the public in response to COVID-19.

In the days leading up to closure, everything was a whirl of preparations. The system had to be reconfigured to halt any overdue book notifications and late fees, a slew of events and room reservations had to be cancelled, and a never-ending stream of patrons came in to stock up on books and entertainment (in fact, the day before we closed turned out to be one of our highest rates of check outs in one day).

The library went from near freneticism to dead quiet overnight. Walking among the stacks now, it almost feels like the library is sleeping, waiting for the day when we can open our doors again. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that the staff has nothing to do – we’re still striving to keep the Roseburg community connected and reading.

To bring books to patrons in a safe manner, we’ve started a weekly drive through pickup service. I spend a good chunk of my time preparing for said book pickup, pulling hundreds of holds that patrons request throughout the week leading up to pick up day. For example, for our most recent book pickup, the staff prepared 512 books, DVDs, and audiobooks. However, the time and effort are well spent, because every Thursday afternoon, we receive a line of patrons in cars excited for their weekly stack of books for the whole family. It is a genuinely heartwarming experience to see that enthusiasm and gratitude from our patrons when they see the books we’ve brought out for them.

Beyond the weekly book pickup, we are also trying to provide the Roseburg community with the necessary resources for learning and literacy. Beyond the library staff remotely helping patrons to sign up for library cards by phone and through email, Youth Librarian Aurora Oberg puts out daily social media posts to keep kids engaged while stuck at home. Past posts include learning about dinosaurs by exploring the Smithsonian’s free-to-access virtual photo collection of fossils, learning about trains by watching videos of real train rides throughout the world, online tours of famous museums and sites such as a pharaoh’s tomb, videos featuring children’s authors hosting Q & A’s and reading their books, and worksheets for chapter books to help with reading comprehension. In the near future, our Youth Librarian will also be posting online storytimes, so that kids and parents who enjoyed our weekly storytimes in the past can do so again without leaving home.

In addition, Roseburg Public Library staff are using this time to get ahead on various projects, and prepare our collection for reopening. For example, Library Director Kris Wiley has been working on collection development, a never-ending project that requires expertise and care. We’ve also been ordering plenty of new materials, for children and adults alike, so that they have new books and movies to enjoy not only for pickup, but also for when we’re open to the public. On the back end of things, I’ve been working on fixing up our catalog so that patrons can find the materials that they want more effectively.

Ultimately, life at the library is still busy to an extent. It’s been rewarding and fulfilling to see the services and resources we can still provide despite being closed. Regardless, I’m excited for the library to reopen later this summer, doing what it does best – serving the Roseburg community.

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.