Planned Closure of Jackson County Libraries

, Posted: Wed, June 5 2013 at 5:41 PM, Updated: Wed, June 5 2013 at 6:28 PM

It's official. The plan at this point is to close 14 of the 15 libraries in Jackson County unless more funding is found.

On a Wednesday afternoon, the Ashland library was bustling. But, the building could be shuttered and empty in about a year.

"It's the loss of a community center," began Chuck Keil, an Ashland resident and Citizens Budget Committee member in the cit.

"Having libraries open in a community speaks to the quality of life in that community," he said.

However more and more, the reality of planned library closures is setting in.

"Unless the county receives some substantial additional funding from some new source, we will be forced to eventually close down the libraries," said Jackson County Commissioner Don Skundrick.

He said the county's budget deficit is $6.8-million; libraries take up about $5-million of that deficit.

"This isn't a threat or something, it's just the facts. We have to close that gap," said Commissioner Skundrick.

The plan if no money can be found? To close 14 of 15 libraries in Jackson County by July of 2014, the start of the fiscal year. The last remaining one would be in Medford. Commissioner Skundrick said Medford was chosen because it is the largest library in the county, it's the distribution center and it also works with RCC. The flip side, is the Medford branch doesn't find funding within one year, it would close too.

In communities like Ashland and Talent where voters have chosen to tax themselves to help keep their libraries open...

"Since the money can only be levied to support a library [...]  if the library were closed [...] the levy would not be collected. It could not be collected," said Keil.

If the library closes, some levy money would be left over. At this point, Ashland city officials said it's too soon to tell where that money would be dispersed.

"At this point it's identifying the options what can be done to ensure how the Ashland library remains open and operating," said Ann Seltzer, the Management Analyst for the City of Ashland.

She said people have already come forward wanting to participate in a task force to explore options on how to keep the library open.

It's expected that there will be opportunities to save either individual libraries or all of Jackson County's libraries. However, what happens is up to what voters decide...if a levy is put on a ballot, if citizens tax themselves in separate communities and if they continue to lobby commissioners. The bottom line? County officials said they need a substantial and stable source of funding (i.e. some sort of jail fee surcharge or other money) in order to keep operating the libraries.


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