Talent's new library will open today with much fanfare even as all 15 Jackson County branches set in motion a timetable to mothball the system indefinitely after their closure April 6.
This twist of fate doesn't faze local donors who have put their heart and soul into the new building next to City Hall. The donors have opened their pocketbooks to enlarge the meeting room and teen section and make other improvements.
"Once voters understand the real situation, they will take action," said Patricia Remencuis, who, along with her husband, donated $10,000 to the Talent library and got four grants that have paid for a larger facility than originally was planned for the site.
Even as the couple proudly show off the new facility, Jackson County officials are preparing the public for the closure of all branches after they have been remodeled or rebuilt primarily from $38.9 million in bonds OK'd by voters in 2000 and designated for new library construction countywide.
County library Director Ted Stark said patrons may begin noticing more signs that libraries will close soon when on March 1 the number of items checked out will be limited to 30.
Even though this is more books than many patrons check out, Stark said, "A lot of parents come in and check out a whole bunch of picture books for the kids."
Also, parents who homeschool their children rely heavily on the library.
Stark said transfers of books and materials with the Josephine County library system already have ended.
However, Stark said that apart from a few inconveniences, many patrons should hardly notice that anything is different at their branches.
"We'll be trying to operate as normal as possible until we close," he said.
After the library in Medford shuts down to the public, it will remain open to Rogue Community College students only. RCC has an agreement with the county to use part of the library space.
"We will have a security guard at the door to check ID," said Stark. "You will have to have an RCC ID to check in."
After the closure, library workers will spend a week putting all the books that have been checked out back on the shelves.
On April 13, the equivalent of 80 full-time library jobs will be terminated. Stark is one of six employees who will stay on to maintain the mothballed system.
All the materials and equipment will remain in place until the May election.
If voters reject the levy in May, Stark said, computers and other equipment will have to be dismantled and stored for safekeeping.
The levy, which would require property owners to pay 66 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, would need a so-called double-majority to be successful. This means 50 percent of registered voters must turn out for the election and a majority of those must vote "yes" for a property tax to pass in a non-general election.
The levy would add $110.22 in taxes annually on a house with an assessed value of $167,000, the county average.
Margaret Laursen, whose family contributed $20,750 toward the Talent library, said she had always anticipated the county eventually would lose the federal timber revenue.
"My problem is we've known for years that they're going to take the funds away," said Laursen. She said voters will realize that the library system benefits teenagers, children, homebound people and the elderly.
The contribution was made in honor of Margaret's daughter, Lisa Laursen, who died of brain cancer in 2003. She was married to developer Michael Thirkill and had two children.
Remencuis, whose Sicilian mother learned English in a library, is confident voters will approve a three-year levy on the May 15 ballot that will raise $8 million to reopen the libraries.
Remencuis and her husband, Jim Bradley, made their donations in honor of the memory of Bradley's mother, Dr. Rosemary Bradley, a Harvard University economics professor.
Bradley remains optimistic that voters will understand what's at stake and understand that libraries benefit everyone. He said other communities like Bend or Eugene have faced similar problems but found the money to support their library systems.
During the November election when voters rejected a similar levy, Bradley said most residents were unaware of the gravity of the situation. "Now everybody's aware of it," he said.
Bradley and his wife believe libraries provide a safe place for children after school.
"We have a soft spot in our hearts for libraries," said Bradley.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.