With less than three weeks before voters decide on Measure 15-75, Jackson County residents hold the fate of the 15-branch library system in their hands. For some, it is a matter of community pride and a moral responsibility to reopn the libraries, which were closed April 6 because of a lack of funding. For one vocal Talent resident, the "Taj Mahals" spread throughout the county are not a luxury taxpayers can afford, and he cites mismanagement in bringing the library system to its present state.
Joe Davis, 34, born and raised in Medford.
Occupation: Attorney for Lithia Motors; chairman of the Save Our Library System.
Recent read: "The Summons," by John Grisham.
Kathleen Davis, 64, born in Duluth, Minn.
Occupation: Retired English teacher, campaign manager of SOLS.
Recent read: "Knockdown," by Dick Francis.
Ross Davis, 65, born and raised in Portland.
Occupation: Retired judge, supporter of SOLS.
Recent read: "Bucking the Sun," by Ivan Doig.
Monica Morales, born in Madrid, Spain.
Occupation: Works in marketing for La Clinica, translates SOLS literature into Spanish.
Recent read: "La Sombra del Viento," by Carlos Ruiz Zafůn.
Sara Davis, 18 months, born and raised in Medford.
Occupation: Daughter of Joe Davis and Monica Morales.
Recent read: "Silly Sally," by Audrey Wood, and "Good Night Gorilla," by Peggy Rathmann.
Libraries won't be shut down for long if the Davis family has anything to say about it.
"Win, lose or draw, I didn't want to see libraries close without a fight," said Joe Davis, chairman of the Save Our Library System.
It's a sentiment he shares with other family members who are front and center in an effort to pass a levy May 15 to reopen all 15 branches in Jackson County.
"The reason I'm passionate about this election is that I love this community," said his mother, Kathleen Davis, campaign manager for SOLS.
Joe agreed. "As a guy born and raised in Medford, I believe in what this community has been and what it can become — a library is central to that," he said.
He remembered as a small child going to the library and being amazed at the variety of information that was readily available. "It's bordering on miraculous," he said.
Joe recalled a summer day when he was about 14 and the Medford library held an intellectual scavenger hunt. He was given a list of questions that must be answered using the resources of the library. At the end of the day, he remembered thinking, "I can't believe I found all those answers in one place."
Though they are spearheading the effort to save libraries, the Davises stress their efforts would be nothing without the hundreds of volunteers who are canvassing, calling voters, pitching lawn signs and trying to answer the thousands of questions local residents have raised.
"This isn't about us," Kathleen said. "It is about the community."
Joe and his mother share their love of libraries with other family members who live in Medford and have actively campaigned for the levy.
Kathleen's husband, Ross Davis, has volunteered and supported the efforts of SOLS. Joe's wife, Monica Morales, has translated SOLS literature into Spanish and hopes to do more outreach to the Hispanic community if she can find time while caring for her 18-month-old daughter, Sara Davis.
The Davises have their own stories about why they love libraries and why they are working together to persuade voters to support the levy.
Joe moved back to the Rogue Valley from Portland, where he was an assistant district attorney, because he decided this would be a good place to raise his family.
An attorney for Lithia Motors, Joe said he would have had second thoughts about moving here if the libraries had been closed at the time.
He said Lithia is supportive of his decision to become chairman of SOLS because company owners understand the importance of an educated work force.
"Libraries are good for business," he said.
Kathleen remembered spending a lot of time in the library while living in Duluth, Minn., where she was born and raised. Her mother worked as a librarian during the Depression before Kathleen was born. "She understood the value of reading and literacy," said Kathleen, a retired English teacher.
Her husband, a former judge, has fond memories of going to the library in Portland as a youth, whiling away the hours in summer. "I also remember the library as a good place to see high school girls," he said.
Ross said that as a former judge he always has had a strong interest in protecting the liberties of this country. "The first thing a despot does is take away access to information," said Ross. "It is an embarrassment to me to live in a community that doesn't support libraries."
Referring to his wife and son, Ross said, "I'm so proud of both of them. It takes courage to stand up in public and say what you believe."
Ross has volunteered his time as well, canvassing neighborhoods, helping in fundraising, making public speeches and putting signs in lawns.
Kathleen has volunteered for libraries before. She and other community members helped raise more than $700,000 in donations to build the Medford library.
Kathleen was serving on the library advisory committee when it became clear that a levy would be needed to keep the branches open. "I just said this had to happen," she said.
She said it wasn't her idea to recruit her son for the SOLS campaign. He was approached by Dan Thorndike of Medford Fabrication to be the chairman of the Save Our Library System.
Neither Joe nor Kathleen have shied away from speaking to critics, appearing on radio talk shows and answering questions from Jackson County citizens who are adamantly opposed to the levy.
Referring to one of the most outspoken critics of the library levy, Don Rist of Talent, Joe said, "I think he's entitled to his opinion."
Compared to other recent elections, Joe said the library issue hasn't polarized Democrats and Republicans. He's seen supporters and detractors from both sides.
Kathleen said that in all the discussions about libraries, people lose sight of the fact that these buildings are designed to last 100 years. "This is something Jackson County citizens will treasure," she said.
Monica Morales said that growing up in a small town in Spain, she didn't have a library as nice as the one in Medford.
"I was surprised to find so many popular Spanish books here," she said.
Daughter Sara already likes having her parents read to her.
"She loves books," said her mother.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.