Searching for Ways to Keep Libraries Open

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, July 17 2013 at 5:20 PM, Updated: Wed, July 17 2013 at 6:14 PM

Residents were on a mission to save Jackson County's libraries Wednesday afternoon. People packed into the Jackson County Commissioner's public hearing. The purpose was to brainstorm solutions to keep 15 libraries open.

Among those attending, Michael Morgan and his little girl Julia. The two regularly attend Wobblers Storytime at the Medford library.

"I think the library is really the foundation for the entire educational system," began Morgan.

"Our library system really is a crown jewel for this entire valley."

Those feelings, brought him, his toddler Julia and many others to the public hearing with the Jackson County Commissioners.

"Hopefully you will be able to find a long term solution that will keep the libraries up and running," said Morgan during the hearing.

Officials said it costs the county more than five-million dollars to run the library system. Grant money makes up about $800,000 dollars of that total and about $4.2-million comes out of the county's general fund. Without stable funding 14 of 15 libraries will close by July of 2014. The only remaining one would be the Medford branch, but even that facility would close one year later.

Among the many ideas brought to the table: fundraising and creating a library tax district.

"By doing a district for the library, people would know that this money is definitely going to go to the library," said Michelle Blum Atkinson who spoke at the public hearing.

The idea would bypass the county and ease the minds of some residents who have said they're worried about where the money might go. Another idea involved collaboration between the county and businesses.

"Perhaps the business community has a vested interest in keeping libraries open," said Chuck Heil, an Ashland resident.

Other people who attended the meeting said they could host fundraisers that would raise thousands of dollars to help pay for the libraries. However, the money still would not cover the entire cost of the library system.

Meantime, until there's a solution, Michael Morgan and his little girl will keep attending Wobbler Storytime...that is until they can't anymore.

A phone survey of about 500 residents found the majority of people were adamantly against new taxes.

Commissioners plan on holding a study session to go over ideas presented at Wednesday's meeting.

If you have suggestions on how to keep the libraries open, email the commissioners.

Visit https://www.co.jackson.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=7 for their contact information.

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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