Bend’s population has more than doubled since the downtown library opened in 1998, and now, the Deschutes Public Library is wondering if it’s time for a bigger library.
The library has been circulating an online questionnaire in recent weeks, soliciting input on what local residents might want in a new library.
The questionnaire, which closed Saturday, quizzed participants about their library usage, their concerns about their community and the value of different types of library programming such as lectures, kids’ story times and adult education classes.
Todd Dunkelberg, executive director of the library system, said the library district board has been considering the possibility of new facilities for a few years. The board wanted to learn more about what area residents might want from new library facilities, he said, and the survey is a step in that direction.
Dunkelberg said the board will be reviewing the information collected through the questionnaire at its Dec. 15 meeting.
The current, nearly 20-year-old downtown library is considered by library experts to be about the right size to serve a community of 35,000, Dunkelberg said, while Bend’s population is close to 90,000. An east Bend library annex opened in a strip mall on U.S. Highway 20 in 2011.
If the library district finds Bend residents are warm to the idea of a new library, both the downtown and east Bend branches would remain open, Dunkelberg said. The survey gave participants the option of expressing a preference for a new facility on the city’s north, south and east sides — but not the west side. Dunkelberg said the downtown branch is thought to provide adequate library services to west-side residents.
Dunkelberg said it’s a challenging time for libraries, with technology changing how people read, research and spend their free time.
Given the uncertainty of what the future holds for libraries, newer libraries increasingly emphasize flexible spaces, Dunkelberg said, with room for performances, public meetings and other programming.
Circulation of books, CDs and other physical items in the library’s collection has been flat in recent years, though the library has seen a surge in checkouts of e-books and music downloaded through the library’s website.
Dunkelberg said regardless of current trends, the printed page will have a place at any future library branch in Bend.
“I definitely would not expect something where you could not find a book,” he said. “That’s still a very valuable piece for people, and something I expect to see continue into the future.”
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