August 27, 2001 11:00 pm

A group of state, regional and library leaders met recently with officials from the non-profit Libraries of Eastern Oregon to begin finding solutions to revitalize public libraries in Eastern Oregon.

Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, announced that $80,000 has been promised to LEO by the Oregon Economic & Community Development Department for feasibility planning for the library organizations vision of Lighting Up the Libraries.

The $80,000 matches funds allocated to LEO by the Legislature in early July for libraries at Moro, John Day, Baker City and Heppner.

The funds are to be used to help implement initial phases of Lighting Up the Libraries a plan adopted by LEO to create 21st century library community centers in Eastern Oregon.

State Librarian Jim Scheppke said public libraries in Eastern Oregon lag behind libraries in other parts of the state in local government per capita funding based on population served.

In fiscal year 1999-2000, libraries in Western Oregon averaged $34.61 per capita, compared to an average of $17.65 in Eastern Oregon. And in some areas in the eastern region, funding for libraries falls as low as $10 per capita.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has endorsed the Lighting Up the Libraries concept as one of 15 high-priority projects in Oregon under the Oregon Solutions Program. Oregon Solutions projects are those that meet the triple bottom line of community, economic and environmental sustainability.

Lighting Up the Libraries calls for development of public libraries as modern community facilities that are well equipped to meet the public information needs of the 21st century equitably. It offers a menu of potential services for libraries including the delivery of arts and cultural programs electronically and in person, access to e-government services, access to advanced distance education, and access to electronic employment through telecommuting stations at public libraries.

The concept of Oregon Solutions is based on solving problems, not running government, said Mike McArthur, Sherman County judge. Its about finding solutions that embrace the community, the environment and the economy by bringing people together around a

worthy cause as a sustainability project.

McArthur and Aletha Bonebrake, director of the Baker County Library District, have been named by Kitzhaber as co-convenors of the LEO Oregon Solutions Team.

This project is focused on reclaiming our communities through a vision of revitalizing libraries, Bonebrake said. Its forming strong partnerships to help the libraries while also stimulating community development in the rural communities of Eastern Oregon. ... If we dont share resources, were not connected to each other.

LEO Oregon Solutions Team members agreed that significant funding is needed to help libraries, including funding for new library buildings across the region, telecommunications capacity, staffing and technology support, and ongoing costs of operating for libraries as revitalized information centers.

The team will seek additional resources to leverage the state funds so that planning efforts for Lighting Up the Libraries will reach all the 41 public libraries that LEO serves.