The Medford Library began as a "subscription" library in 1903 when fifty citizens donated two dollars each for books. Located in Haskins' Drugstore on the 200 block of East Main Street, G.H. Haskins was the first librarian when he took on the job of checking out books and collecting subscription dues. Borrowing privileges cost an additional twenty-five cents a month. In 1907, the civic-minded ladies of the Greater Medford club began agitating for a public library that would serve all citizens, not just those who could pay. The City Council approved, and in 1908 Medford Public Library was opened in City Hall with a collection of 200 books donated by none other than Mr. G.H. Haskins the drugstore owner.
Medford Carnegie Library Building circa 1913
The Greater Medford club was not content with a room in City Hall for the library, they wanted a dedicated building. After much lobbying and editorials written in the Mail Tribune, Andrew Carnegie granted the funds to build, and the Medford Public Library opened its doors on February 8, 1912 with much fanfare and music provided by the Medford High School Band. The new library included a museum of 100 stuffed birds from the Philippines, Florida and Cuba, as well as a men's smoking and reading room. There was no place for the ladies. In fact, the ladies of the Greater Medford Club, who were instrumental in obtaining securing the Carnegie library for Medford, were turned away from using the meeting room! The Mail Tribune reported the ladies were "indignant" and the Library Board later issued an apology. In 1919 the Medford Library became the hub for a system of Jackson County libraries and in 1981, the Carnegie building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Unfortunately, the Carnegie funds only provided a library for the size of the community at the time, not allowing for growth, which meant demand quickly outpaced shelf space. Furthermore, the roof was under almost constant repair until being entirely replaced in 1952.The basement level was also plagued with water leaks, necessitating several automatic pumps to be installed until it was discovered the building was atop an underground stream.
In 1945, a bond to provide up to $102,000 with which to remodel and expand the library was passed, however, all plans were rejected by the city planning commission. It would not be until late 1950 that construction would begin. This expansion doubled available space.
Special levy funds were provided for the construction of the current 83,000 square foot library on Central Avenue and it was opened on April 4, 2004, combining the Medford Branch Library with book processing and technical support staff, who had been off-site previously.