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Library is not simply NetFlix for books, but a community space

It saddened me to read the letter from Mr. Edwin Srebnik in the June 21, 2007 issue of the Review suggesting that a new library is not needed in Lake Oswego. His recommendation to think creatively about library space by opening 'small offices … around town, staffed by about two people to loan out the books with a drop-off box for returns' would be detrimental to the Lake Oswego community.

I urge Mr. Srebnik to visit the library during the day and to observe how constituents are using the facility and resources. People are doing research on the computers; children are browsing the stacks of books; parents are talking with librarians for reading suggestions; patrons are studying and working at the tables upstairs; and teenagers are quietly lounging in the teen corner. So much of what my family and others enjoy about our trips to the library is perusing the stacks, finding books and CDs that we might not have heard of before. In this way, the library offers a way for us to broaden our perspective.

The library is also a place for community. For patrons of all ages, the building is a place to meet and talk with others and share what they are reading or listening to. In addition, the programs the library offers - from music to puppet shows to signing for babies to poetry readings and hiking lectures - are extremely well attended. These programs would not be possible in small branch libraries.

Mr. Srebnik notes that the recommendation for a new library is based on a 1995 study. He's right, times have changed since then, but every study and all the statistics since then reinforce what the 1995 study says - the current library is too small. We are lucky to have the top public library in Oregon (Hennen's American Public Library Ratings), but our score shows the one area that the library fails to meet the standards is the facility and size. Each day, approximately 1,000 people visit the Lake Oswego Library, making the facility a vibrant and crowded community center.

Yes, my family renews books online and puts materials on hold via our home computer, but if this is the role our library is going to take in our community, we would all be greatly disadvantaged. The library is not simply NetFlix for books, but a community space. We enjoy the library and we enjoy spending time there exploring the shelves. This is what a library should be about.

Gabrielle Williams, Lake Oswego, is the Library Advisory Board Chair for the Lake Oswego Public Library.