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New library could be another star in LO's crown

In January 1951 my husband, Herald Campbell, and I moved to Oswego, then a small town of about 3,250.

It had been snowing a little, but when the weather moderated, the first thing we did was to go to get our library cards at the city hall. It was located on the south side of A between the alley and First. The one-room library and the water department shared the frontage backed up down the alley by the police and fire departments and a joint meeting room.

The librarian, Mary Strachan, welcomed us. Most happily she was related to old Portland friends. As we became acquainted, we soon realized that there was already a growing hope for a real library building. We both became active in the formation of the Friends of the Library, which spearheaded a campaign for a bond measure. This was successful and in 1973 a 7,000-square-foot library was built at Fourth and D. It was outgrown in less than 10 years.

By 1976, the city had passed another library bond for a 35,000 square-foot building on the entire half block; the site had been made available through the generosity of John Gray. Due to the opposition of a small contingent of First Addition neighbors, who considered the library traffic to be a potential threat to community livability, construction was delayed for eight years.

Both the architects and the library design team were devastated by the loss in square footage, 8,000 square feet, including the meeting room and the opportunity to extend an unfinished daylight basement along the south slope. In spite of its deficiencies in capacity, the library was a total success due to splendid administrative staff, its accessibility and the whole-hearted support of patrons.

The last 29 years space has become even more overcrowded. Technological change has made enormous strides. Computer access, audio-visual materials, DVDs, CDs, Talking Books and the increasing demand for large print are all factors that have strained facilities. Through it all, the library for a lengthy period has achieved the highest readership in the state.

The city has been unbelievably lucky to have acquired the new site on First and B. It has the same walkability, in the same neighborhood, only (a few) blocks from the old site. The slope of the street is advantageous for the provision of parking. The orientation is wonderful, views to both east and south. The property was purchased by the city at realistic, not inflated, cost and is large enough for other civic or complementary uses.

It should be a prominent architectural anchor to the Lake View Village, and would reinforce the cohesive presence of Lake Oswego’s downtown. The livability index of any city is enhanced by the existence of a library of outstanding quality. Over the centuries, the greater the library, the greater the city. Lake Oswego has so much going for it; this can be another star in her crown.

Virginia Campbell, Marylhurst, is a long-time resident of Lake Oswego. Her late husband, C. Herald Campbell, was a former Lake Oswego mayor.