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Celebrating a wealth of local libraries

As with our schools, libraries symbolically and literally represent an investment in education and learning. Libraries are an expression of our commitment as a society to foster an environment conducive to advancement and knowledge. A community that has impressive libraries is a community that is likely to be growing and forward-looking — which is figuratively a healthy place to be.

With that in mind, we are pleased to see that several libraries around Washington County have been in the news lately in a positive and impressive way. In fact, if records were kept on such matters, we wonder if Washington County would be setting some type of record for overall enhancements/improvements in such a short period of time.

In Hillsboro, two major building projects have recently been completed. In June 2013, the Hillsboro Main Library at 2850 N.E. Brookwood Parkway, celebrated the long-delayed opening of the building’s second floor. The library opened in May 2007, but budget issues kept the second floor of the facility unfinished and closed off to the public. Last year, the second floor was finally completed, providing an additional 36,000 square feet of space for more books, more seating and more room for patrons. A conference room was also added, providing an attractive new meeting space that can accommodate up to 230 people.

And then, on March 15 of this year, Hillsboro again celebrated as its 15,000-square-foot Shute Park Branch Library, at 775 S.E. 10th Ave., reopened after being closed for 10 months while undergoing a major remodeling. The building had been constructed in 1975, and last year the city moved ahead with funding a major renovation that included a new roof, new energy-efficient windows, advanced heating and cooling technology, new plumbing and electrical systems, earthquake retrofitting and even a redesign that shifted the building’s entrance so it now faces Shute Park.

In all, the city invested about $9 million to make these substantial upgrades to its two library buildings, and Hillsboro City Council member Steve Callaway was right on the mark when he called Hillsboro’s newly revamped libraries “first-class facilities.”

And just a few miles down the road in Cornelius, a little miracle has taken place that will soon result in a brand new and expanded library facility coming to that city.

Obtaining the necessary funding for a major construction project can be daunting for a small city such as Cornelius, but in February the Oregon Legislature stepped up and provided $2.4 million to pave the way for an expanded library in Cornelius.

A proposed new library had been thrown into doubt last November after the city’s voters failed to support a bond measure to pay for the project. Cornelius clearly needs a new library. The current facility at 1355 N. Barlow St. encompasses only 3,000 square feet, while the new one will offer 13,000 square feet. Also, a new community center and two floors of affordable housing for seniors will be built as part of the library project.

The Cornelius library is more than just a center for research and information, according to Mayor Jef Dalin. It’s an integral part of the city.

“The library is the heart of our community,” said Dalin. “It is an economic necessity for our town center.”

There’s more. On April 12, the Aloha Community Library will be opening a new 1,925-square-foot facility at 17455 S.W. Farmington Road. Although it’s not a huge facility by any stretch, it nevertheless represents a 40 percent increase in space from the old library. In addition to more room, the new location will offer new digital technology stations.

In another development, Aloha is hoping to join the Washington County Cooperative Library

Services system, which would bring many benefits and added opportunities for Aloha’s library.

Libraries don’t spring up on their own. Before the actual construction work gets started, libraries are the product of months of planning and discussion; of idea sessions and strategizing on ways to make a goal a reality. In short, dozens of people pushed the vision forward and didn’t give up, even in times of tight budgets and bleak, demoralizing projections of funding deficits.

We are gratified to have these modern, expansive, appealing facilities in our communities, and happy for the progressive leadership and hard work of all those who have made it happen by planning, advocacy and funding, as well as the superb work by the contractors involved.



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