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Forum planned on library closure

A new group formed to promote community dialogue will host a forum to discuss the impending closure of Jackson County's libraries.

Last fall, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce invited dozens of community members to an Appreciative Inquiry event to improve civic discourse. Several groups formed out of that gathering, including a Community Dialogue Committee.

Committee members are holding a public forum from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, in the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.

The event is open to everybody. Organizers have also invited representatives from Ashland city government, the Jackson County library system, the Jackson County Commission, the Oregon legislature and the United States Congress to provide information on the issue.

Participants will then divide into small groups to brainstorm ideas and develop further questions for panelists.

"We're hoping some new ideas will come from it and folks will feel like they have been heard and have heard first-hand what the options are," said Emile Amarotico, an Ashland businessman and member of the dialogue committee.

He said he hopes several hundred people will attend.

Former Mayor Alan DeBoer, the owner of the Ashland Historic Armory, donated use of the building to accommodate a large turn-out.

County libraries - including the Ashland Public Library - face closure after Congress failed to reauthorize funding for rural counties. Jackson County voters then rejected a funding plan for libraries in November 2006, although a majority of Ashland voters supported the plan.

"There's a lot of confusion about what's going on and what's possible," said Amy Patton, a member of the Ashland School District Board and the dialogue committee.

The forum is the first of what dialogue committee members hope will be a series of events to discuss local issues. Other topics could include sustainability, affordable housing and the Mt. Ashland Ski Snowboard Resort expansion, Amarotico said.

Peace House Executive Director Holly East, another dialogue committee member, said the forums could serve the same function as an old-fashioned barn-raising, when neighbors got together to work toward a common goal.

"If we do an event on the library, I'm hoping lots of people will come and the outcome will be we've strengthened our community," she said.

East said, like many people, she is sometimes guilty of formulating her own response in her mind while another person is talking, rather than listening to the person attentively.

She said she reminds herself that she usually learns more from someone with whom she disagrees than from someone with whom she already agrees.

"We need to respect each other," East said. "It takes all of us to create a better place to live, whether that's our neighborhood, city, state or country."

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.