Over a six-year period (2014-2020), the staff, consultants and architects of the Deschutes Public Library spoke with over 6,000 community members to establish their final recommendation for the link which was favorably voted on. by our community last November. I don’t understand why all of this diligent and responsible work is now in question. It seems that some do not like the new location of North Bend; however, it will actually be more accessible to many of our friends in Tumalo, Redmond and Sisters.
To re-evaluate the location and function of this central location, would we need to delay construction of a solution if necessary for another six years?
Responsible work was already done and included conversations with regional real estate agents and economic development staff in the Town of Bend.
After all the research and touring, library staff and the board agreed that the 12 acres of US Highway 20 and Robal Lane fit the vision for the future Central Library for many reasons.
The planned location offers convenient access to two major arteries (US Highway 20 and US Highway 97) and is close to schools and residential areas. It sits in a fast growing area of the county with more housing, businesses, schools and retail planned and close to stores, retail, public safety and fire departments.
In addition, the library investigated and considered the possibility of creating many smaller neighborhood libraries instead of a larger, centrally located building and expanding / improving existing libraries. After much research and discussion, the board and staff decided not to add small neighborhood libraries for the following reasons:
• Many small libraries are too expensive to operate and staff (the library tax rate for operation is 55 cents / $ 1000).
• Smaller neighborhood libraries do not solve the need for larger, flexible meeting rooms for free classes, programs and storytimes, and do not provide a vibrant discovery and learning center for children.
And while we have all been limited in our ability to come together over the past year or so, that will eventually subside, and the need for our community to come together will be greater than ever as we all aspire to again to this personal connection.
• They do not allow the library collection to grow but rather restrict the library collections to its current size – this would keep the library collections on the decline as the population of our community continues to grow. In addition, the strong online and technological needs of our community require considerable effort to maintain and develop.
• Neighborhood libraries would not allow robust distribution and processing of materials required by communities. Or allow for the expansion of services to schools, the elderly and the housebound that a central library would provide.
• Nationally, the focus on neighborhood libraries has proven difficult to sustain, as Portland, New York and Seattle have shown.
The library is working with the Oregon Department of Transportation to improve access through a new roundabout to Highway 20 and Robal Lane. The North Bend area is experiencing strong commercial and residential growth – a new Costco across Highway 20; new transportation hub; 700 residential units planned near Costco; more residential units and schools planned just west of the library towards OB Riley Road; and Bend’s major growth occurring in that hallway.
The library has always demonstrated a strong commitment to multimodal transportation and access to all citizens and has worked closely with the Intergovernmental Council of Central Oregon / Cascades East Transit on convenient bus access to across the county.
The central library project will install nature trails, hiking trails and bicycle paths for various access points to and from the library. The library continues to reach out to organizations and partners across the county to develop the most comprehensive access and service plan for all residents of Deschutes County.
It seems to me that we just need to step aside and let the library complete the proposed and agreed plan so that we can enjoy the results of all the hard work sooner.
Brenda Speirs is CEO of Buzztag, a Bend company, and involved in the economic development advisory board of Bend, Abilitree, AdFed of Central Oregon and Opportunity Knocks. This opinion is his.