As she paws through the Willow Wind Community Learning Center library of a few hundred books, it doesn't take 14-year-old Allesandra Geffen long to realize it's a poor substitute for the now-shuttered Jackson County library system.
A homeschooled child, she used the public library almost daily and always had a "significant pile" of books checked out for study. She also used the library to conduct research on the Internet, something her mom can't afford at home, she said.
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What's going to happen, now that the county's 15 libraries are shut for lack of funding?
"I don't know," she said. "Without the library, that (research) is not going to happen. We can't afford to buy the books. We will lend between families but that's much more limited than a library."
The library system's closure, which came April 6 after a $23 million shortfall in the county budget, has some parents considering a neighborhood book exchange to help fill the gap.
Allesandra's father, Ronen Geffen, said parents are looking for a place to store pooled books "to make it more substantial, not just a couple families sharing."
Cathy Lemble, Allesandra's mother, said that while she feels "quite daunted and fairly overwhelmed," she has about 250 books at home and is exploring borrowing, stocking and lending at a grassroots level.
The family also plan to use the Southern Oregon University library, which charges community members $35 a year ($60 for couples) for a library card and has Internet access.
Homeschooled children will be able to check out books from school libraries in the district they live in, or, if they are the appropriate age, from the middle and high schools, said Willow Wind Administrator Debbie Pew.
Blair Ritchie, mom of two Willow Wind girls, said she will miss going on the Internet and reserving a large stack of books every week. But she plans to set up a book exchange with six or eight families, perhaps eventually using e-mail to pass around wants and lists of books in one's home.
After sessions of "complaining and commiserating," Willow Wind parent Beth Nienhaus, mom of three, says she plans to buy used books at yard sales and on eBay and half.com. But "it's going to be horribly expensive and I'll have to budget it," she said.
Members of the Jackson County Home Educators said their children used public libraries extensively and now parents will be looking into book exchanges and used book outlets.
Chairman Don Walker said members are exploring options, including pooling books in a joint library, greatly expanding it from its present 240 volumes. The group will hold a textbook sale in June at Mountain Christian Fellowship in downtown Medford so parents can pick up affordable standard texts.
"Within our circle of friends we probably will exchange books and advertise our needs in our newsletter," said Zana Walker, a home educator and member of the group. "I need to study this. I don't have a solution yet."
The group's treasurer, Ken Wallace, said the public library closure is "definitely a big blow, really sad," but that "we're a fiercely independent group "¦ and will prosper" by hosting a used curricula fair in which members trade books and host publishers.
Those suffering from a dry-up of books should remember that the used bookstore run by Friends of the Library is still open by the Central Avenue entrance to the Medford library, with most books running a dollar or two, said Meghan O'Flaherty, branch manager. Revenues will help libraries re-open, she said.
Other libraries can help with specialized needs, she said, including the Southern Oregon Historical Library in Medford and the Rogue Valley Genealogical Library in Phoenix. The Rogue Community College library, housed in the Medford library building, is open only to students.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.