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Library location: New library isn't necessary
I was fascinated by the front page description of the Oak Harbor City Council discussion on building a new library.
I visit the Oak Harbor Library three to four times a week at varying times during the day. There are never more than a few patrons there until after school is out. In the morning and early afternoon perhaps a dozen people are there. The stacks are nearly vacant. And the many computers are open for use. After school lets out, the computers are nearly always fully occupied.
The complete library collection of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System is available for searching on the Internet. Books can be reserved and if they are not at Oak Harbor they will be shipped there when available (usually in a couple days). Shipments of books arrive every day from the Sno-Isle system. The access to and variety of books in the system is excellent. Other convenient features are available through the Internet. The system works extremely well and quickly.
In addition, the parking lot is seldom crowded except for a couple days a week in the morning when the community college students fill it up.
Now why then does the city council wish to build a new library at a cost of $10 to 12 million? It's not their money, its your money.
Well, the city council feels that moving the library to the waterfront would bring more people downtown. That is, the somewhat ramshackle (except for the excellent restaurants) West Pioneer Way whose property owners would like people to regard as downtown. Somehow the city council has failed to notice that above 90 percent of the shopping in Oak Harbor takes place in the Safeway-Albertson-Wal-Mart area and north on Highway 20.
But it is the proposed locations for the new library that are most irresponsible and even somewhat ridiculous. Anything goes, it seems, to attempt to lure shoppers into the ramshackle downtown. The council's top choice is the location of the stadium containing the high school football field and baseball fields. To heck with the students, downtown businesses and their property owners are more important. The second choice is the uniquely lovely waterfront parks that are to be destroyed by the unnecessary new library.
Councilman Paul Brewer even suggested that the present library be sold (depriving the city of a library) and the money put in a trust fund until a new park is built. Councilman Brewer is willing to deprive Oak Harbor of a library to bring customers to a decrepit street in Oak Harbor which can't attract customers on it own merits.