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Library District: Its really worth support of voters

LO's library use is the envy of the state; approving 3-310 will help keep it that way

Lake Oswego residents have made one thing abundantly clear over the years: They are avid users of their library.

How do we know that?

For the fifth year in a row, the Lake Oswego Public Library earned the highest Hennen's American Public Library Ratings score of all the libraries in Oregon, placing in the 99th percentile statewide.

Scoring first in the state is impressive enough by itself. On top of that, add to that the library's winning score of 887 actually topped its previous HAPLR grade. And, the library was rated seventh in the nation in the 25,000-49,999 population category, topping its previous score of eighth in the nation.

Want another way to tell?

Consider this: More than 21,000 people hold library cards in Lake Oswego. With a population of about 37,000, that's a phenomenal number of folks taking part in the library.

Want one more?

The Lake Oswego Public Library receives an average of 1,057 visitors per day. The national average for library visits per capita is 4.75 per year. The state average is 6.16. Lake Oswego Public Library's 07-08 visits per capita stands at 8.57 - the highest in Oregon - and is going up every year.

But changes are blowing in on the library system in Clackamas County. When county commissioners learned that federal timber payments would be eliminated, a decision was made to pull library support out of the main county fund and have voters decide their support via a special library district.

Some voters in Clackamas County have been asking if the temporary restoration of federal timber funds payments - passed as part of the federal bailout by Congress - means the county no longer needs to set up a special library district.

The answer is no.

While the renewal of the timber payments - federal money doled out to rural counties who lost money because of decreased logging on federal lands within their limits - is a welcome relief from some of the county's financial woes, it is not a permanent solution. In fact, the timber payments will completely expire in four years, about the same time county funding for libraries will dry up without the special district.

If the Ballot Measure 3-310 fails during the Nov. 4 General Election, will it impact Lake Oswego Library users?

The quick answer is yes.

Currently 10 city (including Lake Oswego) and three county libraries receive operations funding from the county. The county currently provides about 30 percent of the Lake Oswego Library's budget - much more to some of the other libraries. If the measure fails, these county funds go away, county libraries will close, library services will be cut and the county library book share (which brings 20,000 books a year to Lake Oswego from other county libraries) would be curtailed.

At 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, the library district will certainly be a costly item on your ballot. But if you are weighing costs, consider the alternative: If the measure fails, there is no plan B. Library service will be diminished noticeably. We can ill afford to have valuable library services slide at a time when the economy is struggling. People need a way to pull themselves up, using the 'great equalizer' of libraries.

We urge you to support Clackamas County Ballot Measure 3-310.