Passage will bring the library's patrons more funding and a better library

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Amy Grant (center), former board president of the Aloha Community Library Association, celebrates with supporters the passage of Washington County Cooperative Library Services levy on Tuesday night. The image of a donut has long been used when talking about Aloha and libraries.

For years, Washington County Cooperative Library Services member libraries were well-positioned to serve the area’s communities, with one notable exception right in the middle of the county.

Aloha: The hole in the donut.

On Tuesday night, voters filled that donut hole with some sweet, sweet jelly by handily passing a WCCLS local-option levy that will give the Aloha Community Library full membership in the cooperative with the fiscal year starting next July.

In the most recent (but unofficial) results, 64 percent of voters were supporting the levy with all precincts counted.

To be sure, the Aloha Community Library Association had already been working to fill the library deficit between Beaverton and Hillsboro — an area that, if incorporated, would be about the size of Tigard.

The association opened its small library three years ago, built on a foundation of volunteers and donors, but its members had always pinned hopes on this election.TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Washington County District Attorney Bob Hermann reacts with a smile after the passage of Washington County Public Safety levy on Tuesday.

“It was (always) way in the future,” said Amy Grant, past president and one of the association’s organizers dating back to 2011. “It seemed like a long way away.”

Aloha’s long-term library dreams rested on taxpayer funding, on building a larger collection of its own and then plugging patrons into WCCLS’ giant one, on opening a larger location with more than a shoestring staff, on providing a diversity of programs for its residents … on simply growing up into a stable and established library that knows the source of its next paycheck.

Like other libraries in the WCCLS system, and especially those operating outside city tax bases, Aloha’s nonprofit association still must marshal donations and volunteers to make ends meet, but the new funding that comes from Tuesday's levy approval will fill many of the yawning gaps to help build a better library.

“Speaking as a member of the community, it sort of validates us,” said Martin Granum, the association’s new president. “It’s important to the identity and the growth of the community to have a library.”

Eva Calcagno, WCCLS’s longtime director, was among the dozens of supporters who attended a party at the Aloha library’s annex space that quickly turned celebratory when the first election results were posted at 8 p.m.

All of the member libraries had reason to celebrate from Tuesday night’s the levy passage, projected to raise $12.7 million next fiscal year and progressively more through its five-year lifespan. That is a substantial part of WCCLS and member libraries’ budgets and will allow all of them to maintain — and in some cases increase — operating hours and other services.

With passage, voters agreed to fund system-wide improvements by raising their property tax rates by 5 cents per $1,000 assessed value (up to 22 cents/$1,000), which tacks another $14 this year onto a typical homeowner’s tax obligation compared to the current levy.

Nowhere will the impact be felt more than in Aloha.

“They’ve been in sort of a limbo,” Calcagno said, noting that Aloha residents always have been welcome to use more distant member libraries but couldn’t always reach them. “It’s a gigantic leap in terms of library services for this area.”

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Amy Grant (right), former board president of the Aloha Community Library Association, hugs Lori Emerick, vice-president of ACLA, after the passage of the Washington County Cooperative Library Services levy on Tuesday.

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