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City Council: No library levy for Medford

With the blessing of library proponents, the Medford City Council agreed Thursday not to put a levy on the November ballot to increase the operating hours of the Medford branch library.

"The worse thing that could happen would be to put it on the ballot and have it fail," said Pat Guild, a member of the Medford Friends of the Library group.

The decision came following a telephone survey of 360 registered voters, which showed only 25 percent of voters would support such a measure, while 18 percent would not and 57 percent were undecided.

City Manager Mike Dyal said according to the survey, the community is not ready to say yes.

"The undecided is the most significant figure there is," he said.

During its noon study session, the council decided there wasn't enough support to move ahead on the ballot measure.

The proposed property tax levy would have given Medford's Central Library a 16-hour-a-week boost for operations. It is now open 24 hours a week.

The measure would have asked taxpayers for a levy of 6 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $9 per year for a house with an assessed value of $150,000 (assessed value is typically about half market value). The levy would have generated $320,000 annually to fund the additional 16 hours per week.

Twelve of Medford's 13 precincts voted against county-wide library levies in November 2006 and again in May 2007. Kathleen Davis, chairwoman of the library advisory committee, said the group had conducted surveys prior to the votes, and it's likely the survey numbers were inaccurate because people don't like to admit they won't support a library. She said the committee hopes to launch an adult literacy program to be held in libraries, because that's part of the problem.

"Jackson County adult illiteracy is between 18 and 23 percent," she said. "It's time for a sea change."

Davis said, meanwhile, she doesn't think the federal timber subsidies will continue as a source for running libraries.

"I assume it's very unlikely that we're ever going to see any more of that," she said. She said the library and the city of Medford need to join forces to generate support or else they'll be right back in 2010 talking about closing libraries.

This is the second effort to seek funding for extended hours for Medford's library.

The Medford Friends of the Library approached the council in November, asking the city to contribute $120,000 to expanding library hours, while the group would donate $40,000. In December the council declined the request.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.