SOHS library reopens with volunteers

Southern Oregon Historical Society reopened the doors of its research library Wednesday after a nearly two-month hiatus.

The facility, at 106 N. Central Ave. in downtown Medford, will be open to the public three days a week, from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

SOHS President Doug McGeary said the library has transitioned to an all-volunteer setup to ensure it will remain viable despite a lack of funding following the loss of a Heritage District levy in the November election.

The levy would have enabled funding and — in most cases — expansion of services for 15 local historical and genealogical societies in Jackson County.

McGeary said SOHS closed the research library in early December and set about reorganization and training of nearly two dozen volunteers.

"We've gone through our ups and downs, but we've really reoriented ourselves and focused on reorganizing. I think this, with the library, is one of the first big steps, but there is a lot more to what we've been doing besides opening programs and services," McGreary said.

"We want to make clear that we are still alive and out there in front so people can see. We've always had a large volunteer base for our organization, but we had staff in the past to help and assist us to make sure there was a continuity and a presence. We're now learning to do all these things with an all-volunteer organization."

Vicki Bryden, library chair, who has been part of the historical society since the mid 1970s, said she was encouraged by the dedication of volunteers.

"Before we knew what would happen with the levy, we had looked to see if we would have been able to transition to an all-volunteer basis if it came to that. Staff had always provided consistency, but the people who are working in the library for us now, most of them have been working as volunteers for several years," Bryden said.

"With the transition, everyone who was already there stayed, and we just added a few new ones.

We had to cut back from four days to three until we get some more volunteers trained and on board, but we feel good about where things are headed."

Bryden said a great deal of the work done by the library is done online.

"A lot of the people using us as a reference source shouldn't see anything too different. It might sometimes take a little longer to get something done, but it will still get done," Bryden said.

"Our fees are the same. We are open and available, and we will do the best we can just like we've always done."

Day Manager Alice Mullaly said she was happy to see the library doors open again and hoped more locals would discover the quality of the regional collection available at SOHS.

The collection is the state's second-largest, boasting nearly 100,000 photographic images, 1,100 manuscripts and more than 1,000 transcribed oral histories. It is heavily utilized by researchers, historians, genealogists, municipalities, contractors and businesses.

"For a regional area, it's pretty remarkable," she Mullaly.

"We have requests from all over the world for information. And it's been really important to us to keep our doors open for community members to benefit from, as well."

To learn more, see or call 541-773-6536, ext. 200.

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