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Major changes could be coming to Lake Oswego Library

by: Vern Uyetake, The Lake Oswego Public Library may face some significant changes once decisions are made on how best to use the Safeco Insurance building.

By MATTHEW SHERMAN

Staff Reporter

Big changes may be in store for the Lake Oswego Public Library. At a meeting held July 19 at the Safeco Insurance building off of Kruse Way, the steering committee for the new building listened to information on two proposals for a large section of the recently purchased building.

The first would, eventually, move the existing library in its entirety into the Safeco building while the other would leave the current downtown location open and the Safeco building would house a second branch that would take up roughly half of the building's space.

Both proposals will give the library much more square footage, something that has been needed for years. The current library has experienced parking problems in recent years as well as an inability to house as many books as some people would like since the demand for new titles forces the library to give away other books.

'There have been studies indicating the need for a new library and a lot of options have been discussed,' said Brant Williams, the director of Community Center Development.

Prior to holding their bimonthly meeting at Safeco, the committee toured the Beaverton and West Linn public libraries to get an idea of what other communities' libraries look like.

The 20-person committee then listened to detailed information from Drew Harrington, a professional library consultant, which showed that Lake Oswego's current library is extremely strong in the number of collections that it currently has but was lacking in open seating and the number of computers that were available to patrons. Harrington also noted that the building's size of roughly 27,000 square feet could not adequately house a library with collections as large as Lake Oswego's.

At the beginning of the meeting, three proposals were laid out, the third being the possible construction of an entirely new building for the library to move into but the costs involved for that option were far greater than those involved in moving part or all of the existing library into Safeco. By the end of the session, the committee agreed to rule out that possibility.

Both Harrington and committee members realized that there were plusses and minuses to both options.

According to projections that looked all the way to the year 2030, one main library at the current Safeco property would be considerably cheaper to operate as fewer staff members would be needed and the cost of only keeping one building open would, naturally, be lower than the cost of two buildings.

However, it was also pointed out that Lake Oswego residents hold the current library in very high regard and that there may be adverse effects to merchants that come with taking the library out of the downtown area.

'People in Lake Oswego are very loyal to their library,' Harrington said.

The Lake Oswego Library perennially ranks as one of the top libraries in the state and Lake Oswego residents visit their library more frequently than citizens in other communities.

'We project that circulation will remain high no matter what. If you build it, they will come,' Harrington said.

With a larger space, the library would be able to house more programs, provide more seating and access to computers and would more aptly be able to use its large corps of volunteers.

Under current proposals, if Safeco was used to house the entire new library, it would use close to 65,000 of the building's roughly 95,000 square feet while, if a dual library system was enacted, roughly 43,000 square feet of the Safeco building would be used for the library.

The steering committee will continue to discuss the library in future meetings along with plans for a proposed community center.

'There are so many different possibilities. (The committee) has to figure out how to narrow things down. You can only build so much and spend so much,' Williams said.

Once the committee establishes its recommendation, public input will be sought and the final recommendation will eventually be brought in front of the Lake Oswego City Council. Voters will still have the final say on approving plans for the Safeco property when a ballot measure is created either in 2007 or 2008.

The steering committee's next meeting will be on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Safeco building where plans for a recreation center will be discussed. The next scheduled meeting to discuss the library is slated for Sept. 13, and public open houses and workshops are planned in October.

Individuals with questions are encouraged to visit or to contact Williams at 503-635-6138.