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Volunteers bring Aloha library from concept to concrete


Leaders hope to build numbers, expand hours to county standards

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Eric Squires, director of the new Aloha Community Library, checks out the DVD collection at the facility located at the Bales Thriftway shopping center in Aloha.  
In the process of establishing a public library in Aloha, Eric Squires admits he underestimated even that most basic element of library science: identifying and coding books.

“I just thought you slapped a barcode on there and it’s done,” he says. “It’s so opposite of that. Every three books on the shelf represent one hour of volunteer time to process books to make them checkout ready.”

Squires is co-founder of the Aloha Community Library, which opened in late September at 17683 S.W. Farmington Road, suite E, in the Bales Thriftway shopping plaza. In the past year or two, he’s had a crash course about community libraries and what it takes to build one.

The new, 1,000-square-foot library features five rows of carefully stocked shelves containing about 6,000 books and DVDs. A check-out desk, children’s area, meeting table, four public computer stations and one devoted to referencing provide further amenities. A rotating volunteer staff and one paid employee help keep things running on hours currently limited to Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

With the basics for learning and media covered, the nonprofit Aloha Community Library Association is setting its sights on fundraising and reaching basic standards to gain acceptance into the Washington County Cooperative Library Services system.

“We’ve had 500 patrons so far, and we think that’s stellar,” says Douglas Hoy, director and president of the nine-member Aloha library association board. “That means 500 families have made this an orientation for their lives and are getting excited. And more are learning about it every day.”

Turning the page

To become part of the Washington County system — including the Beaverton City Library, branches such as Murray Scholls and community satellites like the Cedar Mill library — the facility must be open at least 40 hours a week and circulate 40,000 items per year. After two months of operation, the Aloha library has circulated about 2,000 items, for an annual run rate of 12,000 items.

“Libraries are all about statistics on patrons and the number of books,” says Hoy, 57, who retired after working 30 years in the semiconductor industry. “Their metrics of performance as institutions are about serving the public in that way. We understand that. It’s not easy.”

The sooner the library reaches those golden numbers, the sooner it can benefit from bond levies devoted to public library services. The library must apply to the county system by May 2014 to be eligible for public levy support funding that starts in June 2016.

“A lot of levies take two to three cycles before (a library) can join,” Hoy notes.

Bolstered by a $1,000 matching grant from Washington County, the Aloha association raised a little more than $30,000 by the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, with pledges pushing the total closer to $40,000. The board is working closely with two nonprofit community libraries nearby, including Cedar Mill and Garden Home, for guidance and inspiration.

“On one hand, we want to be a free provider of services, but books aren’t free,” Hoy says. “Like any business, we can fail at what we’re doing.”

Fortunately, strong support from the community and at least 20 volunteers directed by Terri Palmer, the library’s paid employee, keep Hoy and Squires in the optimistic range.

“Aloha really wants this, and they’re telling us with their attendance, checkouts, their donations and support,” says Squires, a real estate agent and graduate of Aloha High School. “It’s just a miracle we’ve gotten to this point.”by: JAIME VALDEZ - The new Aloha Community Library is tucked into the Bales Thriftway shopping center in Aloha.

Filling a void

The Aloha association and board formed in February 2011 from members of Citizen Participation Organization 6, for which Squires serves as chairman. The neighborhood group serves Aloha, Reedville and Cooper Mountain areas. The group sought to have a working library at the Bales Thriftway center by spring 2012, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Aloha Post Office.

It took a few months longer to get the facility up and running, but Squires maintains the momentum — as well as the need — remain strong as ever. While there are other libraries located within a seven-mile radius of the Aloha center, the severe cuts in the current Beaverton School District budget only increase the need for library services and materials.

Among those downsized in the school district’s budget cuts, Ann Sindelar-Trahin is a key volunteer at the new library. When not working in her new role as a computer science instructor at Mountain View Middle School, the former Aloha High School librarian plays an active role in building the public library’s growing collection.

“Many of the local schools are cutting back their librarian services,” Squires wrote on the Aloha library’s website. “We believe that having a local facility in which to connect with the WCCLS system is better for Aloha residents than requiring residents to drive to Beaverton or Hillsboro to pick up or browse for their favorite book, magazine, CD or DVD.”

Based on the library’s relatively quick development from concept to concrete, as well as the outpouring of donations and volunteer help, Squires is confident the fundraising and numbers will build to put the new library on Washington County’s media map.

“The community (members) put their foot down and said we want it,” he says. “We feel confident the community is supporting us.

“It’s a no-brainer.”