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Check out the library's history

In honor of centennial, West Linn man compiles library's past


You can find a lot of history books in the West Linn Public Library, but did you know you can find the library’s history there too?

Thanks to long-time resident Alan Lewis, a new compilation about the library’s history can be found on the shelves. In honor of the city’s centennial, Lewis accepted the challenge to research and compile the library’s story, from inception through today.

Over the course of three to four months, Lewis said he “talked to a lot of people,” including folks from Oregon City and the Clackamas County Library, and he even spent a few hours in the West Linn Tidings archives.

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: LORI HALL - Alan Lewis can be found outside the West Linn Public Library every presidential election day morning to collect early ballot drop-offs. He recently compiled a booklet researching the library's history.

For Lewis, 81, the library has always held a special place in his heart and with his family. Having moved to West Linn from Los Angeles in 1965, Lewis and his wife quickly got involved with the library.

“We knew all about the library,” he said. “People love that place. There’s no question about it. We’re very fortunate.”

Not quite as historic as the city, the library is 74 years old. The county library was authorized in 1938 and was based out of Oregon City. A deposit station opened in West Linn in 1939, open just four hours a day three days a week and was based out of two rooms in city hall.

Continuing to grow, in 1965, the city put out a vote for an $85,000 bond to build a new library at West A Street and Willamette Drive. It was soundly defeated, twice.

Thirteen years later, the library got an eviction notice of sorts from city hall in 1978. With 14,000 books and 900 cardholders, the library was too big and city hall was too small.

Two sites were contemplated, the corner of Burns and Highway 43 and the Bolton Fire Hall Annex. Though the floor would have to be strengthened to hold the weight of the books, the annex was the selected site.

With 25,000 books and more than 5,000 cardholders in 1986, the library was once again bursting at the seams, according to Lewis. Residents passed a $1.2 million bond to build a new library on Burns Street, its current location. It opened in 1989 and was expanded in 2002.

Today, the library has 168,133 holdings with a circulation of 710,203 and 17,976 cardholders.

Needless to say, it continues to be a popular place in West Linn.

For the complete history of the library, check out Lewis’ “History of the West Linn Public Libraries, March 1, 1939, to March 1, 2013.”

For Lewis, his favorite spot in the library is the little room downstairs, The Book Cellar, where the Friends of the West Linn Public Library sell used books to raise money for the library.

“Everybody just really loves the place,” Lewis said.




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