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Photo of Oregon City Mayor Doug NeeleyMayor Doug Neeley

From City Matters - Spring-2014 Oregon City Trail News

All five members of the City Commission unanimously voted to place a bond measure on the May ballot to build a new library. If the measure passes, the new facility will be constructed behind the current Oregon City Carnegie Library, opened in 1913 on a site dedicated by John McLoughlin to the City of Oregon City in 1850. The façade of this existing building was restored to its original architecture in 2001, a few years after the Library was moved to a leased facility in the Hilltop Mall because the size of the Carnegie could not meet the needs of its growing population. That lease was terminated because of the construction of Safeway, and the library’s functions and staff were brought back to the Carnegie in 2010 with much of its collection being stored off-site because of reduced space. The current space is woefully inadequate for the Oregon City, Redland, Beavercreek, and Carus populations being served. After more than three years of seeking a new site and after receiving numerous suggestions from the public, the Oregon City Library Board and City Commission unanimously concluded that the most economically feasible location was that of the Carnegie. However, they all agreed that the integrity of the Carnegie must be preserved, not only because of its historical and architectural importance but also because it represented the image of the library to so many of its users. The decision was made to develop conceptual plans for a new building to be located immediately behind the Carnegie. So as not to detract from the Carnegie’s architecture, its design would not be the same as the Carnegie’s but would have Carnegie elements. Concern was raised about trees that would have to be removed, but the giant elm trees have one by one been succumbing to Dutch elm disease, so the lifespan of some of the remaining trees is limited. There was also concern about the Concerts in the Park, which have been held behind the library for several summers. Last year, the Parks and Recreation Department held an “Elvis Concert” at the City-owned End of the Trail Interpretive Center. The attendance was large (as large as the largest of the Concerts in the Park) and was easily accommodated. Furthermore, there was sufficient parking at that location. Recently, the Oregon City High School’s construction class received a Metro Enhancement Grant from the City to build a concert stand at the Interpretive Center, and that permanent stand will be used for various events including the Concerts in the Park. There was also the question of whether adequate parking would be available for the increase in usage at an expanded library. The City recently purchased an existing parking lot on 7th Street directly across Jefferson Street from the Library and will seek ways to increase parking opportunities along the Carnegie’s perimeter streets. Another question was raised about developing branch libraries. This is an excellent question, but one that needs to be addressed in the future. First, there is the need to commit ourselves to a library that can offer programs and services for children, youth, and adults and that can accommodate a large collection of materials - a space that is not available in the current library and that could not be accommodated within branches. The expansion proposed will accommodate these needs and could in the future be the central library within a larger district-wide system. You will be hearing a great deal about the bond and plans for the Library in April and May prior to the election, but the most common question raised is how much the bond will increase property taxes. There is no intent to raise taxes; the City already has $4 million that will be available, and the remaining $6 million sought in the bond measure will be met and paid for with current City and Library District annual revenues. The public library is the great equalizer. All people, regardless of economic, social, or educational status, have access to books and other print material, internet and Wi-Fi services, media such as CDs and DVDs, programs and many other resources and services. With the planned new library, these items and services will be greatly expanded and diversified.