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Library boosters in Oregon City are pinning their hopes on a levy to increase hours

Passage or failure of Oregon City's library levy, 3-238, could mean the difference between increasing library hours back up to full-time status similar to other libraries around the county, or seeing them slashed back to half that amount.

Passage of the levy - which would add $95 a year to the tax tab for a $250,000 home - 'would mean the additional funding to the library would allow us to restore operating hours to 50 hours a week, seven days a week,' according to city Community Services Director Scott Archer.

'In addition to that we would restore all our previously cut library services.'

In 2005, after the failure of a county-wide library levy, all city funding to the library was eliminated. The library's hours were cut back to 23 hours a week, running solely on county money.

Some of that money was restores, bringing the library back up to 35 hours a week.

'We're still 15 hours short of where we used to be,' Archer said. 'And we still don't have a lot of services we used to do.'

Passage of the library levy would allow the library to restore services like adult programs, internet access on all of its computers, crafts and children's storytime.

Down the hill from the library - which is located in leased space at the Hilltop Shopping Center - the Friends of the Oregon City Library are raising funds for library services at their used book store. They're also promoting the levy as the library's best chance.

They point out that it's about more than just increasing services - it's a choice between growing and possibly cutting back again.

'We have no guarantee that without the levy the city will be able to sustain the funding,' Karin Morey said.

'Now that we've reopened Thursdays, we're not getting people back as quickly as we thought. The longer that continues, it will reduce our circulation further, which reduces county funding.'

They believe that Oregon City needs its own library.

'You can walk into the Oregon City library when it's open and check out a book,' Morey said, 'and you can go into any other library in the county and request a book… and that book may only be available at Oregon City - not every library can house every book. The more libraries you have, the more books are available.'

'Some of the libraries give priority to their own patrons,' Harryette Shuell noted. 'If you request a book from lake Oswego, and you're from the Oregon City area, all of the Lake Oswego people are bumped ahead of you - only when the Lake Oswego people have read it do you have a chance.'

Some have suggested that the city should be getting more money for all of the people outside the city limits who use the library; Shuell and Morey pointed out that the county money the library already receives is intended for that purpose.

'At 23 hours we were operating only on county funds,' Morey said. 'The county funds are to serve the portion outside the city of Oregon City - the levy will provide the city's portion of the library costs.'

The levy, they said, won't directly pay for services like storytime and Internet classes - rather by restoring full hours the staff will have time to do those things. With the reduced hours, they say, the staff has to work at checking out and reshelving books full-time.

'My main reason,' Shuell said, 'is that the library is the center of the community. It's the only service available to everyone in the community.'

'The library is the only place you can go where it doesn't matter if you don't have any money,' Morey said. 'You can check out a book or DVD or use the Internet - and when it's not open that stuff isn't available.