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WEBs a bad fit for the library

Pragmatic library supporters have asked, 'Since we need more room for the library why not move it into the West End Building?'

On the surface, that seems like an easy solution.

The pragmatic answer is: Remodeling the West End Building into a library would cost millions and it wouldn't be as good as a building designed to be a library. Here's why. Retrofitting the 30-plus-year-old, $20 million WEB to handle the weight and incorporate the technology and design requirements of a library would cost upward of $6.5 million (from the West End Building Process Report of 2009). Libraries must be built to handle three times more weight than office buildings - books and media are heavy.

Today's libraries are dependent on miles of cabling. The acoustics in the WEB are horrible and would have to be renovated to meet library use requirements. Lighting and climate controls have undergone tremendous advances in the past 30 years and are essential to a comfortable and efficient library. Current ADA and seismic standards would have to be addressed. The WEB was designed for offices and cubicles, costs for transforming this into an efficient library would be considerable, and in the end we would have an expensive and less than ideal library building.

Another issue with the WEB is the location. Libraries thrive when they have symbiotic neighbors. When the library is in the right location, it benefits both the library itself and businesses in its vicinity. There have been many studies done on what makes a good location for a library; placement that lets people combine trips results in better library patronage, brings more visitors to local restaurants and retail and is good for the environment. Imagine being able to walk between the bank, a coffee shop, stationary store and the library. Those opportunities for synergy would be lost if the library is removed to a Kruse Way office building, even a remodeled one.

Those who cherish fiscal responsibility should think carefully about the best use for the WEB. We can't say if the property should be sold, rezoned or reused for some other civic purpose. Only an election can settle that debate. But we can say that the WEB will not make a cost-effective library and doesn't make the most of the library's potential.

In 1983, when we built the current library, it was placed in a residential neighborhood not because it was the best place for it, but because the site was a bargain. We can do better for our beloved library, and for our pocketbooks, than once again putting considerable city funds into a make-do building in an inferior location for a library. Remember that 95 percent of our residents hold library cards. Let's make the best decision we can for ourselves now and for the long term.

Darrel Condra is a resident of Lake Oswego and a retired librarian.