Ted Stark, Jackson County's interim library director for seven months, has resigned to lead a library in a small Wisconsin town.
"There's a lot of uncertainty," about the future of the library system, said Stark, who has overseen the closure of all 15 branches in Jackson County because of budget cuts. "I didn't see that there was a lot left for me to do."
The 56-year-old Shady Cove resident will run the public library in the university town of Menomonie, a city of 15,000 people that is between Eau Claire, Wis. and Minneapolis, Minn.
He said he's enjoyed living in the Rogue Valley for the past nine years, but said he grew up in the Midwest and the move will bring him closer to his family.
A 25-year veteran library worker, Stark said he was not forced out of the position, and added that despite the difficulties of the past seven months, he's received support from county officials.
"I'm not bitter or anything like that," he said.
Stark, who has two children and is married to Heidi Hooten, offered his resignation on July 20 and his last day will be Aug. 17.
He said his pay at the new job will be $61,000 a year compared to $75,000 in Jackson County. Housing generally costs less in Wisconsin, he said, which will help make up for the smaller salary.
The five former managers in the library system have either retired early or found other jobs, said Stark. He said he doesn't know whether the county will fill his position, and noted that library business manager Judy Baalman might be one possible candidate.
County Administrator Danny Jordan said he hasn't made a decision yet about whether to appoint a new interim library director.
He said that even though the buildings are closed, the county still has to oversee construction of new libraries, and maintain the existing buildings, computer system and other services so that one or more library buildings could potentially be reopened.
With Stark's departure, only five library employees will remain to oversee the mothballed system.
Jordan said he supports Stark's decision saying it offers stability for him and his family.
"I'm fairly certain it's a result of the circumstances we're in," said Jordan.
The county closed all of 15 its the libraries after it lost $23 million annually from a federal timber payments program. Voters rejected two levies, one last November and one in May, that would have generated $8 million annually to keep the libraries open.
Voters did approve a $38.9 million bond measure in 2000 that has paid to remodel or rebuild the libraries.
The county has sent out a request for proposals to potentially outsource running the libraries. The responses are expected by Monday. Stark said he has been helping the Jackson County employee union develop a proposal for running the libraries that would involve reorganization of staff.
Another proposal is also expected from Library Systems and Services LLC (known by the acronym LSSI), a Maryland firm that specializes in running public libraries.
Stark said he would still be on the job to help the county look over the proposals.
With the small staff on hand, Stark said the libraries are well positioned to be reopened again.
The city of Ashland will ask voters in that community to approve a September levy to raise $1 million annually to operate the second-biggest library in the county system. Ashland officials have said they would like to reopen their library in October.
Stark said that despite the obstacles, he is confident that something will be done to reopen one or more libraries.
"The library will open this fall in some fashion," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.