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Creswell library: Yes.

Byline: The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 9/28/04): A Sept. 25 editorial addressing Measure 20-87 on the Nov. 2 ballot incorrectly identified the new library district that would be created if voters in the Creswell area approve the measure. The new district would be called the Lane Library District.

Creswell has had a volun- teer-run library for 77 years, housed in a 130-year-old schoolhouse. The city provides the space rent-free, and contributes a trickle of funding for utilities and other expenses.

People's first instinct will be to leave this long-standing arrangement alone. But Creswell is changing, as are its needs for library services. Voters should approve Measure 20-87 on the Nov. 2 ballot to create a new Creswell Library District.

The district's residents would include everyone who lives within the Creswell School District. The district would have a tax base of 59 cents per $1,000 of property value; the owner of a $150,000 house would pay $88.50 a year to support library services. The measure would also establish an elected five-member board to govern the district.

Asking people to pay for something they currently receive for free is a tough sell. Yet doing nothing is not a good option. The existing library building will soon need a substantial investment in repairs - the floors are sagging, the siding is deteriorating and there's no hot water. Even if the building were renovated, it would still be too small to provide library services to a community the size of Creswell.

An opportunity to move to a larger, more up-to-date location has arisen with the relocation of the Cascade Home Center. The hardware store's building on Oregon Street in downtown Creswell has sufficient space for a library. The library has an option to lease the space; it will be able to exercise the option if Measure 20-87 is approved. The library would be able to double its hours of operation and expand its collection by 50 percent in a well-located, up-to-code and fully accessible building.

Creswell should be looking for such opportunities. The city and surrounding areas are growing quickly, primarily because of their proximity to Eugene and Springfield. Unless Creswell does what it can to establish its identity as a separate community, it risks becoming a suburb. A community's identity arises from such institutions as schools and libraries.

A strong, locally governed library would help ensure that 10 years from now, people will describe themselves as living in or near Creswell, not outside Eugene or Springfield.

About 90,000 people in Lane County currently lack access to a library - the highest number of any county in Oregon, a distinction that is a continuing cause for embarrassment to everyone who understands libraries' vital contribution to a healthy civic culture. Creating a Creswell Library District would reduce that number by about 8,000.

That's a start, and Creswell could show the way for other parts of Lane County. New library districts might be created elsewhere in Lane County following Creswell's example, or existing library districts might annex areas that currently lack library service.

Measure 20-87 gives voters a chance to decide what kind of community the Creswell area will become. A defeat would leave the volunteer library struggling to survive at a time when Creswell schools are reducing their library services. A defeat would create increasing dependence on out-of-town sources of information for those who could afford it, and isolation for those who could not.

Approval of the library district, in contrast, would improve access to sources of information, education and entertainment - but more than that, it would promote self-suf- ficiency, local control and a sense of place.

Measure 20-87 deserves a yes vote.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; New district could show the way
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 25, 2004
Previous Article:Fern Ridge Library: Yes.

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