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A community beacon

The spacious, bright Medford centerpiece offers the latest Web services and comfort at a bargain compared to similar projects

With its soaring light-filled spaces and grand staircase, the new Jackson County Central Library will take its place as the centerpiece of downtown Medford during its grand opening April 4.

The 83,191-square-foot structure of glass, stone and brick will set the tone and mood for years to come, helping to transform the downtown into more of a destination.

It's a beacon for all of us, said Scott Rayburn, chairman of the Jackson County Library Advisory Committee. Imagine driving by it at six on a December evening and seeing all of this light spilling out of the building.

Five times the size of the old Carnegie library, the new facility is likely to dazzle patrons with its 25-foot ceilings, huge windows and quality in every detail, from solid oak tables and chairs to wireless technology that allows tapping into the Internet throughout the building.

Rogue Valley residents can relax in one of the 101 easy chairs and sip their morning coffee while choosing from 28 newspapers or more than 200 magazines.

Rooms can get so bright that the lighting systems are designed to automatically dim depending on how sunny it is, resulting in less eye fatigue and less energy usage. Push-button controls raise or lower window blinds.

Leslie Perkins, senior clerk in the periodicals department, said the library always has plenty of light even on the dullest of days.

It's raining outside, she said last week. But it still seems bright and cheery.

Jackson County Library Services Director Ronnie Budge said she didn't blame patrons for wanting to spend as little time as possible inside the cramped and gloomy quarters of the old Carnegie building.

comparison, she said, You feel so good in this building. There is something invigorating about this building that makes you want to stay in it.

The two-story facility might look expensive, but compared to other facilities of its kind, it's a relative bargain.

It looks richer than it is, said Budge.

Will Gerstner, of the Portland architectural firm Fletcher Farr Ayotte PC, said, On a square-foot basis, this building is one hell of a bargain.

The building's basic construction cost is &

36;13.2 million, or &

36;159 a square foot. comparison, Eugene's new 127,500-square-foot library was &

36;26 million, or &

36;204 a square foot.

Total cost for Medford's library, including design, engineering, land acquisition and other amenities, added up to &

36;19.4 million, although that amount could vary by the time the county signs off on the project.

The library is being built with &

36;38.9 million in voter-approved bonds, which also is paying to upgrade 13 other libraries in Jackson County.

Library staff say patrons definitely will want to linger in the new facility, whose theme River of Knowledge is reflected in artwork, carpeting, doors, waterfall and rock work.

Lori Moore, teen librarian, is looking forward to the reaction on teenagers' faces when they see the new enclosed section that has magazines and books devoted to their interests.

It has one of the best views in the library, said Moore, pointing to Roxy Ann Peak to the east and mountains to the south.

Her offices are the size of the former teen section at the old library. I had a little office that was literally a broom closet, she said.

In the children's section, everything has been miniaturized, except for the lofty spaces.

Shelving is about four feet tall so children can get books more easily, coat hooks are only a few feet off the ground and there are separate bathroom facilities.

The Harry and David Children's Garden offers children a chance to play outdoors when they're not reading books.

We have a lot of nice little spaces and small rooms so kids and their parents can sit down and read, said children's librarian Patt Colwell.

There is also the Storytime Room, where children can gather while books are being read to them.

For adults, the library will be offering half its selection of fiction in large print volumes.

For patrons in general, the library will finally have all of its 200,000 books and other materials available under one roof.

Volunteer Paul Jacobs of Phoenix was filling the shelves last week with old magazines such as Look and Life that date back to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Some of them catch your eye, said Jacobs, 66. You say, 'Hey that was the day I was born.'

Budge, who's nearing her 30th anniversary with the library, remembers, You could not tell where all the books were in a branch, with the exception of Ashland.

She also remembers starting her job in the reference section. I was hoping that someone would come down with a question, she said.

Over the years, the readership has become more sophisticated and reference questions have gotten more difficult, she said.

It used to be that light reading was popular, she said. Now we get people who are into serious literature.

For patrons, the new library will be a more efficient place to find books or materials or to get questions answered.

Before, we were trying to take a 19th century building and do 21st century needs, she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail

Fun Central Library facts

Wireless technology will make it possible to access the Internet from your portable computer almost anywhere in the building.

You'll be able to bring a cup of coffee into the building as long as there's a lid on it.

The letters that say Library in the front of the building are 5 feet tall.

The letters with the Andrew Carnegie quotation are 12.5 inches tall.

The Jackson County Library Foundation received more than &

36;700,000 in donations for the Central Library, which paid for many of the enhancements such as the outdoor water feature, the indoor bronze doors, the Children's Library Monster Bench, the gardens and other art features, as well as books.

In total, the foundation has raised &

36;2.4 million in donations from the community since 1999 that has benefited the entire library system.

Jackson County Library Services circulated 1.3 million books last year.

The total number of books loaned to or borrowed from other library systems is 74,372.

The total number of reference questions asked last year was 214,838.

What to expect

Here's what you'll find in each section of the new Central Library:

New Books

(lobby): popular books that have just hit the market.

Adult Fiction (

downstairs): comfortable seating, views of the garden, half the collection available in large print, audio books, videos.

Adult Nonfiction

(upstairs): Twelve computers, ample space to sit and read, wide aisles.

Reference

(upstairs): eight computers, shared space with Rogue Community College Library, five study rooms, study cubicles, back issues of magazines, auto repair manuals.

Periodicals

(upstairs): twenty-eight newspapers, more than 200 magazines, comfortable chairs for reading.

Teen Library

(upstairs): six Internet computers, books and magazines specifically geared for teenagers, study rooms.

Children's Library

(downstairs): five Internet access sites, storytime reading room, easy-access shelves, larger easy fiction collection, children's bathrooms, private study areas, fun accessories such as the Monster Bench.

Friends of the Library Bookstore

(downstairs, staffed by 33 volunteers): 1,300 used books and videos for sale, ranging from 50 cents to a few dollars. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Gardens

(back side of building): Harry and David Children's Garden, including a boat for children to play in, and an adult garden.

Mellelo's Coffee Shop (downstairs):

with outdoor seating in good weather. Coffees with lids allowed in the library.

Community Rooms

: large room that holds 200 people and has a kitchen; two rooms that hold 30 to 40 and have a small sink and counter. All can be accessed even when the library is closed.

Rogue Community College Library:

the first public library in the state to combine a public and college library; occupies 12,000 square feet; features a 35-station computer lab available to the public when students aren't using it. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Grand opening is Sunday, April 4

From 11 a.m. to noon, patrons will form a human chain to pass books from the old Carnegie building to the new library. (Volunteers line up at 10 a.m. at 413 W. Main St.) Ceremonies begin at noon in the parking lot at Riverside Avenue and 10th Street. Tours, authors' talks, art exhibits and entertainment are planned from — to 4:30 p.m.

Hours, services

Book checkout and Internet services begin April 5. The Central Library, at 205 S. Central Avenue, will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more, see .

The new Jackson County Central Library in downtown Medford likely will impress visitors with its spaciousness and modern touches when it opens April 4. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven