Make voice heard about library plans | Renton Reporter Editorial
September 7, 2011 · 5:14 PM
For sure, the future of library services in Renton has stirred more controversy than any other issue in recent memory.
But now is the time to look forward, not backward. Now is the time to speak out – and ask questions – about what plans the King County Library System has in mind for a downtown Renton library.
Still, it will be tempting to bring up how the site was selected for the new downtown library, right next to the Renton Transit Center. KCLS made it clear this is a design meeting; but system officials should address, too, what’s really on everyone’s mind – the library siting, even briefly. That’s not asking too much.
We’re not backing away from our long-standing position that the City of Renton (the decision-makers) had no choice but to find a new provider for library services to Renton’s residents. The city simply could no longer pay for its own library system, given the sorry state of government finances and higher priorities.
Residents agreed when they voted last year to annex to KCLS.
We’re not backing off, either, our belief that a library will help revitalize the downtown core. There’s only so much that government can do to promote business development with our tax dollars. One of those ways is to develop public amenities that will draw people downtown – libraries, parks and clean and safe environment around transit centers. Yes, we should have some skin in the game downtown.
We’ll say again that the city is investing time and money to beef up police presence near the transit center and throughout the downtown core. That sends a strong message to the public – and those bent on committing a crime – that there’s little police tolerance for criminal intentions.
Renton isn’t the only place in South King County where a KCLS branch is next to a bus station. In Kent the downtown branch is across a busy street from another parking garage, which also serves a commuter rail stop.
KCLS faced many of the same issues related to transients at its Kent branch that it will at the Renton downtown branch. It spent money on a remodeling, including moving the bathrooms into the library’s interior, where they were more visible to library staff.
Designers should use that experience in Kent as they address the potential for transients to make temporary use of the library.
But back to Tuesday’s meeting at the Renton Pavilion Event Center and its purpose.
There’s been a lot of debate at rentonreporter.com about the new library downtown. We watch those comments closely. One we like in particular is Union Hat’s suggestion that KCLS take a deep breath and consider downtown Renton’s historic persona, with its brick facades. Developer Dave Smith honored that history when he restored the former Renton City Hall on Wells Avenue. For that he was recognized by the Renton Historical Society for preserving a piece of Renton’s heritage. That heritage doesn’t include a lot of glass and steel.
KCLS also plans similar meetings about the new Highlands branch and an expanded Fairwood Library. It’s ready to listen; it’s time to speak.