With more than 200 days of sunshine each year, Jackson County, Oregon is located midway between Portland and San Francisco. The region boasts beautiful valleys and mountain lakes, wineries, wild rivers, easy access to the Redwoods and coast, and cultural entertainment to rival big cities.
Jackson County Library Services (JCLS) serves the 212,000 residents of Jackson County with 15 branch libraries. The mission of the Jackson County Library District is to connect everyone to information, ideas, and each other. We provide a wide range of children’s, teen, and adult physical and electronic resources and collections as well as outreach services, including booktalks for elementary and middle school students, services for homebound patrons, and outreach to childcare centers. Our ever-changing calendar of programs and events is diverse, including musical performances, lectures, art exhibits, classes, book groups, storytimes, and more.
The largest event in the JCLS calendar is the Medford Comic Con, held annually in the spring or summer since 2015. The first Medford Comic Con had an attendance of over 2,000 people, making it the largest JCLS hosted event up to that point. Attendance continued to more than double in 2016 and 2017 with a peak of over 12,000, making it the largest library event in the state.
JCLS receives dedicated funding through the Jackson County Library District (JCLD), which was formed in 2014. The JCLD contracts with Library Systems & Services to operate Jackson County libraries with an innovative and professional staff. Jackson County Library Services supports our thriving community with the mission of connecting everyone to information, ideas, and each other.
The first Jackson County library system was created in 1919 when the Medford Library Board contracted with the County to serve as the hub for eight other branch libraries (Rogue River, Jacksonville, Talent, Central Point, Butte Falls, Gold Hill, Eagle Point, and Sam's Valley). Medford, serving as the central library would be the hub for book processing and distribution of materials. All county residents were able to checkout books from any of the nine locations free of charge. Branches were open at least twice a week with a total of not less than six hours weekly with hours allocated on a case-by-case basis. By 1923 the library system maintained some 13,000 books and had over 5,700 persons reading nearly 98,000 books a year. At the time, the library system was ranked as second in the state, just behind Multnomah County. Based on this success, other branches and smaller library stations were opened around the county, including Phoenix, Derby, Applegate, Shady Cove, Table Rock, White City, and Prospect.
During the 1930s, library operations were overhauled by the Medford Head Librarian to be more efficient and beneficial to the communities they served. Circulation of borrowed materials continued to increase along with the population, however, allocated funds were reduced, leading to a strain on the collection and an inability to meet demands for new books and space to store them.
When the United States joined the War effort in 1942, over 700 books were sent to the state library from Jackson County for servicemen, along with some funds raised for additional books.
By 1955, funding, which had not kept pace with demands was again reduced. As opposed to ceasing to purchase new and requested books, library hours were cut while circulation continued to rise. At this time, a review by the Oregon state library found Jackson County to have fallen far below its one-time second-place status and no longer met established "Public Library Standards" with respect to funding given the size of the population. Circulation of materials reached over 200,000 items annually by 1958.
Library reference service began in 1956 at the Medford library and the service proved extremely popular, with hours going from four hours on select days to 9:00 AM—9:00 PM in the 1960s. The collection continued to adapt to the needs of the library users and paperback books were introduced in 1959. Courier service to deliver books around the branches began in 1961, supplementing the free mail service that was offered since 1921.
Jackson County Library Services as it is known today was established in 1970 and marked the return of the Rogue River branch, who had left the system in 1958, and the joining of Ashland city library. Plans for beautiful and adequately sized library branches were begun, but when expected funding fell through plans were drastically scaled back to provide simple new structures for White City, Gold Hill, Talent, Phoenix, Eagle Point, and Shady Cove branches. The addition of the Ruch Branch Library in 1986 and Applegate in 1996 marked the final expansions, bringing the total system count to fifteen libraries—fifteen libraries that were all running out of shelf space.
With the addition of public use computers, a burgeoning population, and higher circulation numbers than ever, it was clear that the county library system needed spaces that were conducive to the coming twenty-first century way of life. To care for these needs a public bond measure was passed for $39 million dollars to provide remodeled, expanded, or entirely new buildings for all fifteen branches. Construction began in 2000.
Unfortunately, shortly after construction was completed, library operating expenses—separate from the bond measure funds and administered from the County general fund—were suspended. A library levy measure was not approved and on April 6, 2007, all fifteen new branch libraries were closed. At the time this was the largest library closure in the history of the United States. They remained closed until funds were eventually made available and they reopened with reduced hours and services on October 24, 2007, and operated in uncertainty for the next few years. In 2014 voters approved the creation of the Jackson County Library District, providing a secure and dedicated tax base for library funding to ensure no further interruption of services, as well as expanded hours and services.
In observation of 100 years of service, 2019 will hold special Centennial-themed events and activities to mark the occasion and point the way for the future of JCLS, which today is focused on providing enhanced and relevant services for Jackson County residents that enable them to grow and thrive in the twenty-first century, from online digital services, personal Internet access, comprehensive databases, and programming and events that foster literacy and knowledge for all ages.
Administrative departments may be contacted by email, or via the JCLS business office: 541-774-8679.