My name is Anne Ness, and I am a candidate for the library board in Zone 3 representing southern Deschutes County. I am running because I firmly believe in the value of building strong and supportive communities. Not only was I a teacher for over 30 years, but I have served on a school board, volunteered for various literacy organizations and am currently an advocate for children in foster care. It is through these experiences that I see first hand the critical role accessible local libraries play in growing and supporting our communities. People come to the library looking for information, but they find each other. The best place to make these important connections is at the local level.
The library raised over $200 million dollars from the bond passed in November. The library’s proposed expansion plan will spend 60% of those dollars to build one new library located in north Bend. At the same time the plan budgets just 1% for each of the branch libraries in our district to make renovations and upgrades. I am concerned that the emphasis on building the new library, both in terms of dollars and programming, overshadows the need to grow and support our community branch libraries.
In talking with neighbors and community members I hear many of these same concerns. I find that many people did not vote in support of the bond, not because they don’t value libraries, but because they value and use the library in their community and want to see their tax dollars put to use at the local level.
In looking at the November election data I found that of the 11 precincts in Zone 3, only four voted in support of the library bond — seven precincts did not. I think this is saying residents in the south county are looking at libraries from a local community perspective. For people living in the Sunriver and La Pine areas it would be a 50- to 60-mile round trip to use the new central library. I wonder how often people would be willing and able to do so.
Libraries, being the center of our communities, are great equalizers. They have the ability to lessen the growing divide between the fortunate and those with different life circumstance. Libraries bridge this gap by providing needed technology, internet and resources for all community members — especially our children, older adults, the disabled and disadvantaged. In order to bridge this divide, libraries need to be easily accessible and well equipped.
South county is growing and will continue to grow in the years to come. The bond gives the library the opportunity to make a real investment in all libraries and not in just one central location.
The focus of the library’s expansion plans needs to change. I support revising the library’s plan to ensure we do more for our branch libraries. This would include allocating sufficient funds to provide our libraries with the innovations, resources, technology and space required to equitably meet the needs of our growing county in the years to come.
I care about our communities. I want our community branch libraries to have the ability to provide the technology and resources needed to grow the communities in the south county. Your vote and support for a position on the library board will give me the opportunity to champion equitably growing our community branch libraries.
More information is available at www.anneness4library.com.