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Why we're voting on a new library

I stopped by the library (Oct. 2) to scan and email a document and was surprised and pleased to see the students were back. It’s early October and already there was a group of high school students with books and laptops heaped on a table upstairs.At a window table an adult was tutoring a junior high aged student.

We last voted for a library building in the mid-1970s. It was to be a 35,000-square-foot building with all kinds of nice features like a large community room. We don’t have a community room — the donated site for the library in the midst of a residential neighborhood only allowed a smaller, 27,100-square-foot building with fewer parking spaces.

Five years after the building was finished the library was at capacity. Ten years after that the city studied the problem and was told the best choice was to build a library downtown, in “an area which is frequently visited by all segments of the community during daily activities.”

Fifteen years after that, in 2010, the city was looking for a way to bring more people into the area of First and B to help downtown retail. The library was identified as the ideal retail operation — better than any other business they could find.

It makes sense. The library attracts something like a thousand people a day as it is now, and with more books, movies and computers that would surely increase — every other library in our region that has expanded saw visits jump by 17 percent to 50 percent. And a library won’t go out of business, go bankrupt or suddenly move away.

The city believes so strongly that moving the library five blocks and expanding it would improve retail that (it is) willing to cover the entire cost of site development and improved parking from economic development funds.

The students I saw in the library Tuesday, (Oct. 2) may not understand yet why the economic benefit of a downtown library matters, but they will understand what a new library can do for them and their tutors. A new library could have study rooms and tutoring rooms so it can continue to be an effective extension of our schools.

Darrel Condra is a resident of Lake Oswego and a proponent of building a new library in downtown Lake Oswego.



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