A short-term fix to reopen libraries may be at hand, but supporters are already gearing up to find a long-term solution that could lead to more consumer-friendly hours at the 15 branches.
"We're not happy about the hours," said Pat Ashley of the newly formed group, United Friends of the Library. "But anything is better than what we have, which is closed libraries."
Jackson County could open libraries by November if a contract is approved with Library Systems and Services LLC (known by the acronym LSSI), a Maryland-based library management company, to run all the libraries at $4.3 million, which is about half the previous budget and about half the hours.
The United Friends of the Library, which wants to coordinate the efforts of other library groups in the valley, will hold a public meeting at 9 a.m. Sept. 14 to discuss the options for the future. The meeting will be held at the Jackson County Roads and Parks auditorium at 400 Antelope Road. The auditorium can be accessed through Mosquito Lane off Table Rock Road. Refreshments will be available at 8:30 a.m.
County Administrator Danny Jordan will give a presentation about the LSSI proposal, with a question and answer session following.
At the meeting, topics will include how to better coordinate with other library groups and what kind of relationship library supporters can expect with LSSI.
Ashley, who used the Eagle Point library, said she and other supporters are nervous about a Maryland-based group operating the libraries, but she said the company appears to be run fairly professionally.
"I have some concerns like everyone else," she said. "I personally am excited that we're going to have an opportunity to do something new."
Susan Huntley, who is in charge of marketing for the United Friends of the Library, said supporters need to show the public the economic value of having a library in their community.
Huntley has been hired by the Eagle Point Friends of the Library at $30 an hour, she said.
She said libraries should give better consideration to hours of operation to make them available for people after work or on the weekend.
"We need to look at a new model not only for the library but for us who are shaping it," she said.
The United Friends of the Library met for the first time about a week ago, and Ashley said goals for keeping libraries open for the long term are still being worked out.
"Somewhere out there is a solution and I'm determined to find it, she said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.