Library boosters lead effort to connect newcomers to civic life

New to Forest Grove?

Not Linda Taylor, who's lived in Forest Grove for the past dozen years.

She knows what it has to offer in terms of food, recreation and employment. She eats lunch at Maggie's Buns, skates at Lincoln Park and works as a reference librarian at the Forest Grove City Library.

But Taylor regularly meets people who own a house in Forest Grove but are still 'new' to town.

'There are literally hundreds and hundreds of people new to the community,' she said. 'And people come to the library and say, 'I've lived here a year and a half and I didn't know there was a library here.''

Taylor would often help people find information about the library and the city at large, but she knew there were many more people who could use that information and weren't getting it.

Next month, Taylor will try to reach a wider audience. She's organized an event showcasing the city's offerings. It will run from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 14, at the library, 2114 Pacific Ave.

Working with Friends of the Forest Grove Library, she hopes for a turnout of 150 people and she's amassing a platoon of volunteers to help hit that goal.

This weekend and next, March 31 and April 7, volunteers will go door to door in dozen new housing developments in Forest Grove to deliver fliers advertising the April 14 event.

'New to Forest Grove?' the fliers ask, in English on one side and in Spanish on the other. 'Connect With the Community @ Your Library.'

Besides door prizes and refreshments, there will be representatives from civic, arts and cultural organizations, and city departments.

In the process, Taylor hopes more people will come to see the library as not only a place to get books and magazines but also as an information center for the city itself.

'It's beyond the event,' she said. 'It's the big picture we're interested in.'

The population of Forest Grove has grown by 50 percent since 1990, said Jeff King, Forest Grove's economic development coordinator. Since 2000, it's grown 15 percent, he said.

King said the city's growth in the past six years exceeds the rate seen the county (12 percent in the same period), Metro (10 percent) and the state (eight percent).

And the city has another 1,500 homes in the pipeline, King said.

Taylor said most of the people she knows in Forest Grove are engaged in their community, but she realizes that there are just as many, if not more, who are not.

A 2005 city survey showed that almost two-thirds of Forest Grove residents with jobs work outside the city limits and most people do the bulk of their shopping in Hillsboro or points east.

Taylor said she wants reach out to such residents 'so they can feel more engaged in the community rather than see it as a place to sleep.'

You can't speak to Taylor long before the conversation turns to building community.

Taylor, whose duties at the library include outreach to the Latino population, said rather than a single Forest Grove 'community' she sees multiple communities that operate largely in isolation: Latinos, university students (less so in recent years), residents of assisted-living facilities and commuters.

She sees each group as having different reasons for not integrating, be it cultural barriers or a lack of transportation.

'It's in the best interest of all of us to break down those barriers,' she said.

Taylor also had at the ready a book - 'The Soul of the Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time,' by Paul Rogat Loeb.

'We've all but forgotten,' Loeb writes of Americans, 'that public participation is the very soul of democratic civilization, and how much it can enrich our lives.'

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