I was saddened to learn that the Albany City Council was considering a possible closure of the downtown Carnegie Library. While I am certain that the council will not make any budget-cutting decision lightly, I do wish to dispel the popular notion that, with the presence of the internet, libraries (and books) are going underused. A quick look at the Oregon Public Library statistics report shows that in 2017-18 (the most current year data is available), Albany library users visited the libraries over 295,000 times, checking out over 400,000 materials. Attendance by young children was especially notable, with over 16,000 children attending library programs. Suffice to say, Albany public libraries are well-loved and well-used.
Council members Rich Kellum and Bessie Johnson could be correct in stating that the impact on library services could be minimal with the closure of the downtown branch. Carnegie libraries, however, have a special place in the hearts of those of us who love libraries. In all, 1,689 such libraries were built in the United States, 31 here in Oregon, with funds provided by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie. Only five of those libraries in Oregon are currently being used for their original intended purpose. It would be particularly ironic for a city with such strong ties to the metallurgy industry to close one of these last remaining libraries.
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Albany (Aug. 16)
The author is chair of the Linn-Benton Community College Library.