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Library contains special world

Variety of reasons people use library

Camouflaged by trees, slipped in between rows of houses four blocks from A Avenue, one could easily miss the Lake Oswego Public Library.

Yet inside this ordinary beige-trimmed 1930s building are librarians designing new multimedia features to entice the public.

A token of its success, the library has received statewide recognition as the top library in Oregon for the third year in a row, according to Hennen's American Public Library Rating.

The HAPLR rates libraries by their number of visitors, its total circulation and reference questions on a per capita basis, among other categories.

The reason for this statistical success, Lake Oswego librarians believe, is obvious.

'We are in tuned to the information needs of the community,' said Jan Erickson, library director. 'We have a collection that is tailored to (it).'

Erickson said the mindset of the Lake Oswego community is pro-education, supporting schools and libraries through its community involvement and monetary donations. The $2.5 million gift to the library from the late Ellouise Minter typifies this involvement.

'(Monetary support) may be one (reason why the library is successful) but it's a different philosophy,' Erickson said. 'This community has its own values: Its schools, the community and the library.'

And with the ever up-scaling of Lake Oswego, librarians have had to meet their residents' rising expectations.

Erickson said the progressive Lake Oswego community pushes librarians to be innovative, encouraging the circulation of multimedia resources like electronic books, DVD rentals in the library and seasonal books that follow public interest.

'The most precious thing we have is time,' Erickson said. 'It is important that the library keeps relevant.'

'Our motto here is 'expect the unexpected,'' Erickson said, adding that technology has not made the library obsolete, as some feared.

The Internet has proven to be catalyst in the formation of ideas, which sends Web-savvy researchers to the library for tangible evidence.

'Technology has made our resource more meaningful,' Erickson said, adding that the homey atmosphere of the library in coordination with multimedia resources has helped its public learn while keeping its interest.

'Technology isolates people, (yet) people are gregarious,' Erickson said.

Not just a hot spot for reading and researching, the library is quickly gaining prominence as a haven for movie lovers as well.

Its movie selection increased by 3,572 DVD's over the past year, bringing its total to 9,260 new DVD videos in the library to meet public demand.

'I just found out about (DVD library rentals), I think it's great,' said Martha Martyn, a Lake Oswego resident.

Martyn said she doesn't visit the library often, yet after hearing about library movie rentals during a conversation at Safeway, she, too, has found herself scanning its shelves.

'You can keep (DVD videos) for a week, that's the great thing, and renew,' Martyn said, reading the back of 'Hidalgo.' a 2004 action-film. 'It's better than Blockbuster.'

Librarians have made every effort to incorporate multimedia to follow the general shift in public interest. Greg Cutting, a reference librarian since 1982, said by ordering books about online business management, or controversial political commentaries, the library can keep its finger on the pulse of public interest.

'Five years ago, not as many people were interested in Iraq,' Cutting said. Now some have an invested interest.

Justin Deloge, a junior at the Christie School, said online library computers have proved helpful to his researching and video gaming needs.

'It's quiet and you have room to think,' Deloge said while looking up cheat codes for 'Rise to Honor,' a video game starring the voice of actor and martial artist Jet Li. 'I come here once a week probably.'

Residents may enter the library with a set book or video in mind or a vague sense of possible summer reading, but June Carr, a reference librarian, said she observes some fundamental truths across the board.

'(For Lake Oswego residents), their education didn't end when they finished college,' Carr said. 'People look for inspiration and somehow it triggers here.'