Curry County is known beyond its boundaries for its cranberries, its rivers and salmon, its coastline and increasingly it is garnering national attention for its libraries. The most recent recognition for the libraries' successes was the December 2020 “Star Library” designations announced by the leading magazine for libraries, Library Journal.
This year, the libraries in Port Orford and Gold Beach each received stars. The accomplishment is particularly remarkable considering there were only six star libraries named in Oregon, two in Washington and nine in California. Other Oregon libraries earning stars included Multnomah County Library in the Portland area which serves over 800,000 people, the Eugene Public Library, the Garden Home Community Library (in the Portland metro area), and the Union Carnegie Public Library in Union. Curry County’s libraries are in good company. Gold Beach’s library director, Jeremy Skinner, said the fact that two county libraries made the star list is evidence that countywide collaboration is reaping great rewards for our library users.
So what do the stars mean and how are they awarded? Star Library ratings are based on data from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services annual Public Library Survey. In Oregon, the data is collected by the State Library. Because of the amount of time required to gather and assess the data, each year’s star library rating is based on data from two years prior to the year of the rating. So, for this year, the star ratings are based on data from fiscal year 2018.
Stars for the rankings were assigned by taking seven key per capita metrics and comparing libraries with similar budgets. The metrics that were measured include: physical circulation; e-material circulation; library visits; program attendance; public computer use; wifi sessions; and electronic retrievals.
The data for the Gold Beach library painted a picture of a library that is well used and vital to its community. For example, Gold Beach circulated 14.57 physical items per person and community members visited the library on average 16.77 visits per year. Free wifi service at the library continues to be a crucial community service. In Gold beach, the public use the wifi on average 2.38 times per year.
Overall, for libraries with annual expenditures between $200,000 and $400,000 per year, Port Orford was the 12th highest ranked library in the United States, and Gold Beach was the 27th highest ranked library. Port Orford Library Director Denise Willms said she is proud of the achievements of the Port Orford Library and that the past year has pointed out how crucial library services are to people in Curry County.