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Compromise will aid Carnegie plans

Some give and take could yield more top-floor space for public events

Two groups' proposals to use Medford's old library might not be exactly what a committee researching options for the building had in mind, but we can see how they could work ' with some compromise ' for everyone.

Like many people, we want Medford to fill the building in a way that continues to allow public use of the 1912 structure, built with money donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

By a deadline last week, two groups had filed proposals to use the space. The city itself wants a little over a quarter of the 15,000-square-foot building for parks department offices, and the Southern Oregon Historical Society seeks to use not quite half the space.

Both envision sharing with other groups and with the community, though not necessarily with each other. The Historical Society's proposal would, if the city accepts it as it is, leave considerably less space for public use.

What seems obvious to us is that the bottom floor of the building is the best place for non-public uses: Parks department offices, for example, could go there, as could small community groups or portions of the Historical Society. It's already separated into offices, and it feels like a basement.

The top floor, in the other hand, with its soaring ceilings and historic charm, ought to remain as public as possible. The committee researching options for the building saw it as primarily a community center, a place for gatherings both public and private, and a crown jewel for Medford.

— In its application to be the anchor tenant, the Historical Society argues that it is the best choice to be a steward of the building, since it has experience with history and the ability to raise money. That's probably right.

Our only concern is that the society's proposal appears to leave just the former periodicals area, the room nearest Ivy Street, as public space on the building's upper floor. We think a better plan would leave at least the periodicals and reference areas open, and maybe the largest space, the old nonfiction room, as well.

The Historical Society, which would move from its home on Central Avenue, owns other buildings. The old library wouldn't necessarily need to house its entire Medford operation.

If it can bend a little on its needs, and if the city can bend on a stipulation that no community group occupy more than 3,000 square feet, the Historical Society, city government and the public all might be able to get what they need from the building.