In the dialogue about getting Jackson County libraries to re-open, county officials say one municipality has been absent from the table — Medford.
"I'm disappointed in the lack of direct conversations (with Medford)," said Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith.
The county sent a letter in July to each community asking about its level of library support and suggestions. Medford responded with a letter that asked nine questions about funding, ownership of books, and maintenance of buildings.
Smith said he was hoping for helpful ideas rather than questions, but it's the county that has been unresponsive, said City Manager Mike Dyal.
"We initiated the dialogue and there's been no dialogue," said Dyal.
City officials sent a letter to the county in January (before voters rejected a library levy) , suggesting the county consider reducing costs significantly by closing most of the branches and selling some of the buildings to help cover operating costs, then going out for a levy.
"That was just to start a dialogue — we never got anything," said Dyal.
Smith said the county is just trying to get a general sense of library support in each community and Medford's letter in January was premature.
"It's sort of extreme at this point," he said, adding that other cities have offered suggestions for getting their communities involved with their libraries.
"It's like a sensitive game of chess," he said. "We've got to start at the front and go through the process."
Mayor Gary Wheeler said it's not Medford's sole financial responsibility to re-open a library that also serves as headquarters for the system.
"While it's a library in Medford it's really the central library for the whole county library system," he said.
Wheeler said he thinks the city of Ashland is premature in seeking a library levy when there are still unanswered questions such as who owns the books and who will handle building maintenance. He said he is willing to consider putting a measure before Medford voters to open the Medford library, but there are more questions than answers at this time.
Jason Anderson, City Council president, said Medford is willing to be involved and form committees to work toward opening libraries, but it's too soon to talk about contributing funds, especially when the county still has designated library funds in its budget.
"The city of Medford is more than willing to do everything within its capability to get all libraries up and running," he said. "I'm confident that if we went back to our precincts with a cost-effective measure that we could get our libraries back open."
Ted Stark, interim library director, said no matter how it's done, the Medford branch needs to be opened. Administration of the 15-branch, countywide system is handled at the Central Library, along with other activities such as book purchasing and processing. The branches weren't built with the space to do any of that work.
"I don't think any plan that I've seen works without having (the Medford) library open," he said.
Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail email@example.com.