Recently the Lake Oswego City Council began buying property downtown at First and B for a new library. Most people don't realize how long this has been coming and some may not understand why the library should be moved and expanded.

Our library is considered a core city service; about 95 percent of residents hold cards. We use them too - we have the highest per-capita use of any library in the state. But are there compelling reasons to build a new, larger library?

Seven studies have confirmed the need for a larger building. To best serve a town our size, library space standards indicate the library should be about twice as large. And the current library - built in 1983 - is showing its age. Sub-flooring failures create ongoing problems. Some bookshelves don't meet seismic safety guidelines. Airflow does not meet current ventilations standards. There are chronic roof leaks and the plumbing is insufficient for the crowds that come to the library. Electrical panels are at capacity and cannot meet the power needs of all the electronics - devices not dreamed of when the building was designed a generation ago. Nowadays, access to computers is vital but even in Lake Oswego some can't afford to have a computer at home, and space constraints in our current library can't meet the demand.

For years each book added has meant that one book is withdrawn. There is no room for older items regardless of the fact that they are still in use. The First and B site could handle a two-story library of 60,000 square feet. That's a bit more than twice the size of our current three-level building. Two floors would be more efficient for users and much more efficient for staff who move two tons of materials daily. But most important, there would be room for the collection to grow again, letting us keep older but useful materials while still bringing in new materials.

The current library design originally included a community meeting room, but the building site was too small so it was cut out. A new library downtown could house a large meeting place. Programs of authors, musicians and speakers who now make presentations in the middle of the library would have their own space and not disrupt other library users.

A larger library would have enough space for study and small meeting rooms. Tutors often use libraries but our library doesn't currently have enough space. These days schools require collaborative work on assignments and a larger library could provide that space.

There are many opportunities here:

* The chance to grow the collection of materials used by 9 out of 10 residents.

* The chance to have meeting space for large and small groups.

* The chance to locate near transit lines and expand the parking.

* New technology and flexibility could be incorporated, generating benefits for years to come.

We have the opportunity to construct an efficient and beautiful civic building in our city center. A building for everyone.

Darrel Condra is a retired manager with more than 30 years experience in public libraries.

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