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Strong support for library levy is positive sign

A recent telephone poll revealing a high level of voter support for the county’s library system is very good news.

In January polling, researchers at Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc., a Portland-based market research consultant, found significant backing for a Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) local option operating levy expected to be on the November 2015 ballot.

In the polling results, as many as 71 percent of 400 “likely voters” expressed some level of support that they would vote “Yes” on the upcoming library operating levy. Roughly 51 percent of those polled said they were “very confident” they would support the levy, and another 21 percent said they were “somewhat confident” they would do so.

The five-year levy, which would take effect in 2016, would represent roughly 40 percent of the WCCLS budget.

Only about 25 percent of respondents said they did not expect to support the WCCLS measure.

Approval of this upcoming levy would add an extra 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for county residents over what they have been paying. In the last library levy election, in November 2010, a sizable majority — about 66 percent — of voters supported a 5-year library renewal levy of 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

If voters say “yes” this November, the money raised through the levy would not only allow the 17 libraries in the WCCLS to maintain current hours and programs and expand purchases of e-books for online lending, it would also allow libraries to provide additional access to library collections and services.

Beyond that, however, there is hope that if the levy is approved, it would provide a boost for plans to open a new branch in the planned South Hillsboro community and assist other projects on the horizon, such as the planned construction in Cornelius of a new, greatly expanded library that is expected to open in 2017.

The Cornelius project is now gearing up following an infusion of financial support from the Oregon Lottery and housing program grants and tax credits through Bienestar, a Hillsboro-based, nonprofit housing developer. Plans call for the construction of a three-story, mixed use building that would include senior housing and a community center, while the first floor of the facility would feature a 13,000-square-foot library to replace what Cornelius now has. Currently, the city’s library is crammed into just more than 3,000 square feet, and an upgrade is necessary and overdue.

In 2013, a $2.4 million bond measure to move forward with the innovative Cornelius library building and housing project was defeated by voters, so seeing polling reflecting a widespread level of support for the overall WCCLS levy is very heartening.

According to Karen Hill, director of the Cornelius Library, the project is steaming ahead, but if the November levy is approved, it will be “a bonus to help pay for library operations.”

The combined libraries of the WCCLS network see about 4 million visitors on a yearly basis, so obviously it is a popular and productive system, and indisputable evidence that libraries remain important and relevant, even in the mass information age.

Here’s hoping the results uncovered in the recent polling hold true through November, and the upcoming library levy gains approval. Healthy libraries are a vital part of any thriving community, and keeping a steady, reliable stream of revenue is critical to ensuring the WCCLS can maintain the exemplary level of service county residents have come to appreciate and expect.

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