Libraries: up, open and running by November?

Maryland company says it could whip Jackson County's system into shape quickly

All 15 libraries in Jackson County could reopen by the first week in November if an outsourcing contract with a Maryland company is approved within two weeks.

Library Systems and Services LLC, known by the acronym LSSI, has told county officials that they are prepared to bring in a team to get the system up and running as quickly as possible.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said details of the contract still need to be worked out so he expects to present a contract to commissioners on Sept. 26.

"I think we've got to a pretty good point where both parties feel pretty good about where we are at," he said.

The county closed all 15 libraries April 6 after the county lost $23 million annually that came from the federal government under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, designed to help timber dependent counties faced with a decline in logging.

Since then the federal government reauthorized a one-year extension of the money, providing Jackson County with $23 million.

Libraries would be reopened at roughly half the number of hours before they were closed.

Although the exact number of hours for each branch could change, the libraries in Ashland, Medford, Central Point, Eagle Point and Rogue River could be open for 24 hours a week under the proposal. Branches in Gold Hill, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Shady Cove, Talent and White City would be open 16 hours a week. Outlying branches in Applegate, Butte Falls, Prospect and Ruch would be open eight hours.

LSSI has offered to run the library system for $4.3 million annually, about half the budget before the branches were closed, but with limited hours.

While many library staff members have retired or moved on, others plan to apply for a job with LSSI. Jordan said the company also has the option of hiring retired library employees.

"They hope to hire back our staff," said Jordan. "They intend on actively recruiting them."

Former library manager Anne Billeter said, "I am seriously thinking about applying for one of the mid-management positions."

She has discussed salary ranges with former LSSI workers to get some idea of what to expect.

"General speaking the salaries for those with a master's degree in library science get a comparable salary or even slightly higher," she said.

However, the benefits like medical or retirement are not at the same level, she said. Salary levels are also adjusted depending on market conditions, she said.

Billeter said there is still much information that former library workers would like to find out about the company.

Library workers in Redding, Calif., where the system is also run by LSSI, confirmed earlier this year that salaries were comparable to what they received when they were paid by the government.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.


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