Library district could be future for Jackson County

If there is one thing area librarians and Jackson County Commissioners can agree on it is the belief a library district is the best way to ensure a healthy future.

All three county commissioners have endorsed the idea and former Ashland librarian Amy Blossom, who is actively campaigning on several fronts for various possible solutions, said last week, "we have to do one."

Library districts work like school districts, Blossom said. They are specific tax districts, often drawn to match other political boundaries, and funds accumulated from taxing residents of the district can only be used for libraries, she said. Like school districts, a Jackson County library district would be managed by an elected library board.

She hopes Jackson County voters are asked to vote on whether to adopt the library district model in November of 2008.

While county commissioners and Blossom believe the entire Jackson County library system should be turned into one library district, others have advocated for a South Valley library district, which would likely consist of Ashland, Talent and Phoenix.

Blossom said Deschutes and Klamath Counties use library districts, adding "Those are the places that you don't hear about closing libraries."

Deirdre Krumper, the director of the Bandon Library, said Coos County uses the library district model and she could hardly be happier with the results.

"Our money is always dedicated purely to libraries and nothing else," she said. "Therefore we are never in competition with public safety, roads or parks."

Each of the eight libraries gets a percentage of the funds that come from county-wide property taxes. How the money is spent is up to each library. Krumper said some are controlled by city councils and others by library boards.

"The only restriction we have on the money is that it can't be spent on buildings," she said. "It's the responsibility of the cities to provide a building. The cities take care of the building, the furnishings and the equipment and the materials are the responsibility of city libraries with funds from property taxes."

Krumper said having each library responsible for its own materials has created a diverse collection throughout the Coos County. On the other hand, individual library directors have to "work harder" because they have to select and process their own materials.

"We've managed to create a great, low-overhead district," Krumper said. "You'll find all of our libraries are listed in the top 15 percent of all libraries in the state."

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