The right location for a library used by nearly every resident of Lake Oswego deserves careful thought.
There have been many studies done on what makes a good location for a library. A library is a retail-like service - people come and go throughout the day and evening, and they stay a very limited amount of time, so it should be placed in an area that is tolerant of constant foot/car/bike traffic. In fact, studies show that a library lends itself to a synergy with retail business. Both benefit from proximity to each other by encouraging combined trips that result in increased library use and the spill-over of library patrons spending money in the businesses within walking distance.
Like successful retail, a successful library is easy to find, is easy to access by all city residents, has adequate adjacent parking and is close to transit. Libraries are busy places during the day and evenings, seven days a week. Our current library gets more than 1,000 visits per day, and that could easily increase to more than 1,500 in a better location. Placement works best if the environment is perceived as safe by its users. Parents must be comfortable with their teenagers coming to the library by themselves. Seniors, parents with small children, and others with mild mobility difficulties must be able to get to and from the library easily from adjacent parking or transit. To be perceived as safe, the area should be active at night and seven days a week - people are put off by deserted areas.
The mass of a large civic building like a library is most easily absorbed in a downtown environment where it is in scale with the surrounding buildings. If designing for 50 or more years of usage, the location should allow for future expansion, if needed, without having to go through the expensive process of acquiring new land.
Examine the list of what makes a good location for a library. Office parks, where people stay for a full workday and which are empty on nights and weekends; parks, which are not active at night; and residential areas, which are not designed for constant traffic and parking impacts, are not the best places to put a new library.
One of the concerns we've heard expressed is, why can't we simply renovate the current beloved building? A very fair question, and one that the Library Advisory Board asked about 10 years ago when I was a member. We met with the original architect of our current library and the city and asked them to work together to see if we could make changes that would keep that building going for many more years.
After many meetings, many creative ideas, many architectural drawings, and many code reviews, much to our disappointment, the answer was 'no.' We couldn't capture enough internal space and enough parking space in the residential area where it currently sits to keep up with the demands of the community. The problems that have arisen over the succeeding years with that aging building were not even addressed as part of that question.
Trying to look at it objectively, it seems short- and long-term library needs are best met by a downtown location. The First and B site currently being discussed may be our best opportunity.
Maria Meneghin is a Lake Oswego resident.