Applegate residents rally for libraries

APPLEGATE VALLEY — Local residents worry the libraries in Ruch and Applegate might get lost in the shuffle as Jackson County searches for ways to reopen some of the 15 branches that closed April 6 due to budget cuts.

Applegate resident Joan Peterson said she's heard talk about opening just the bigger libraries, but that doesn't make any sense to her.

"We are the ones that need it," she said. "The people that are the farthest out need it."

Applegate Valley residents will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ruch Community Bible Church social room, 190 Upper Applegate Road.

"It's important for us to get together and create a voice for the rural areas," said Janis Mohr-Tipton, former Ruch branch supervisor who volunteers to run a lending library three days a week in Ruch.

Mohr-Tipton said that since neither Applegate nor Ruch are incorporated, it's difficult to speak with a single voice in her community, but she cited the successful effort last year by parents to keep the Ruch School from closing.

The Thursday meeting is a response to a plea from Jackson County officials asking communities for help in reopening libraries after the loss of $23 million annually from the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act.

County officials have said they won't reopen libraries after receiving an emergency one-year extension of the federal money that helps timber dependent counties. If the libraries were reopened, county officials say, it would take two months to reopen them. Once reopened, the county would be looking at shutting them down again in five to six months, resulting in additional costs to close them down.

Mohr-Tipton said volunteers could help if libraries are reopened, but she said the community would have a difficult time raising the money needed to pay for the operation of the branches.

Peterson said voters in the Applegate rejected the May levy to pay for library operations.

"Coming up with that kind of money in this community is a very hard thing to do," she said. "It's a puzzle."

She said the community needs a dedicated group of people who can continue to pitch for the library as the county debates ways to reopen the branches.

Applegate resident Christopher Shockey and his wife homeschool their three children and he said it has been difficult and expensive to get the books his family needs.

"You should go to Barnes and Noble — our current library — with four kids," he said.

Shockey said his family have decided to go to an independent bookstore in Grants Pass to load up on $300 to $400 worth of books for the fall.

He said he appreciates local efforts to make up for the loss of libraries, which include opening the Ruch School library during the summer. But he said it doesn't begin to meet the needs of his children, one of whom is studying to be a veterinarian.

While he doesn't think the local community could raise the money to reopen the libraries, Shockey said he's willing to listen to suggestions from other community members at the meeting.

"I don't think the solution is going to come from the community — it should come from the county," he said, but added, "I think it will be a catharsis for the community to come together and find some ideas."

Schockey said he would be happy if just one library is open in the county, saying he would travel to Ashland once a week to check out books. He said he'd be willing to pay about $150 as a non-resident of Ashland in order to use that library.

He would also accept a decision by the county to just open say the Medford library.

"I understand the demographics they're facing, too," he said. "It's a question of the most served."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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