An open letter to the Deschutes Public Library system board:
On behalf of older adults in Central Oregon, I am writing to urge you to reconsider your plan for the proposed new central library.
There are a number of concerns affecting our aging population regarding the location and the plan.
First, putting more than 60% of the bond proceeds into one large facility shortchanges the community libraries across Deschutes County. Those local libraries are critical resources for not only older adults, but for children, the disabled and the disadvantaged. We strongly prefer that more resources be put into expansion and enhancement of our community libraries, where your key audiences reside.
Second, the location you have chosen puts the majority of the library’s resources well out of reach for those same groups. Local libraries that are accessible by walking, public transit or short car rides are far preferable to a facility out on a highway, well out of practical reach for many older residents.
How would an elderly person in La Pine make the 60-mile round trip to the location you have chosen?
Third, your extensive research on the community’s needs was done before the impact of the pandemic. We are sure that outreach today would not show the same appetite for large meeting rooms and public spaces. We urge you to conduct further outreach, especially to older adults, parents, the disabled and the disadvantaged.
It is especially concerning to me that you are not planning to build a new East Bend library, and that you have made no commitments to keeping the facility open past the end of the lease. Just a few weeks ago, the Bend City Council adopted the Southeast Area Plan, which envisions creating a “complete community” A library would be an important asset for the thousands of older adults who will reside in this area.
You are asking the residents of Deschutes County to pay a 60% increase in their library taxes. You must use those funds responsibly to serve the interests of people with all levels of ability, not just those who can drive to a remote facility in a car. Please put more of your resources into our local, community libraries and reconsider the location of your new “central library,” if we really need one, to a more central and accessible area.
In the May election, your board president, Martha Lawler, a strong advocate for the central library plan, was rejected by the voters in South County by 10 points.
Her opponent, Anne Ness, raised serious questions about your plans and advocates for more resources to be devoted to our local libraries. On Anne’s website she said: “The COVID pandemic has dramatically demonstrated how much we need community connections. At a time when social, technological and economic forces threaten to isolate us, local libraries help to connect us.”
I urge you to slow down, take the pulse of the post-COVID community, and reconsider your plans.