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Maybe we should wait on a new library

As a person in the market research business I have seen significant change in many sectors, public and private.

While I do not use the library, my wife does as do many of our friends. I believe a library is an important institution in a local community; however, its role in the community will change, in fact it is changing in the digital age. That is why I recommend waiting on a vote for the $14 million bond measure.

One of the major reasons is the paradigm shift in the use of “hard copy” books to eBooks. This is a trend across all generations. How can it maintain a meaningful role in peoples’ lives? Is it by adding space, more meeting rooms and more books? No one knows the answer ... just yet.

Second, is this the right time for any community to be going on the hook for a $14 million bond measure? If we had a strong economic engine going (pre 2006) with a rosy outlook I would say, OK. However, there is no indication the economy is on a strong recovery that will grow jobs and tax revenues.

Third, as any business, nonprofit organization or responsible community government knows, it is time to hunker down, look for ways to survive and at the same time serve its customers. The library should do this. How about ordering books from the library and having multiple pickup locations or delivery? Might children’s programs take place in venues other than the library itself?

Finally, as I understand it there are many other reasons people more knowledgeable than me have voiced. Let me share a few of these with you.

1. There are more important needs of the community. Not having an earthquake-proof, state-of-the-art 9-1-1 center jeopardizes our lives.

2. Our country, state and city are facing unprecedented levels of debt and we are still living with economic uncertainty. Is now the time to add debt for another major project?

3. The library is but one part of the North Anchor Project at First and B. The city still needs to finance a multi-level parking garage and attract a developer to build condos, apartments, offices and retail.

4. Urban renewal dollars totaling $18 million are being used as a major financing source. Libraries are not taxable properties and repayment of the URD bonds will depend on the success of the taxable properties of the Urban Renewal District.5. The North Anchor site will be less convenient for most of Lake Oswego residents living to the west and south.

6. Multi-level below grade parking will be more difficult for seniors than a surface lot.

7. The traffic congestion on B Avenue and its connectors will approach what we now experience on A Avenue.

In summary, it is difficult to predict the future roles of libraries in a digital age. I believe the time to seek funding for a new library is ill timed. The reasons include the dynamic shift in the way people purchase and access “books” electronically; the time is not right, economically; the library should seek ways to serve its customers in ways that will not add to its budget.

David Ludwig has been a resident of Lake Oswego for 39 years.




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