Opinion

New downtown library at Piazza is still a good decision | Commentary

I want to point out why I adamantly support the building of the downtown library at the Renton Piazza site.  Simply put, to save the library for the downtown. Let me explain.

Going back in time when after much study it became apparent that the city, under budgetary restraints, and high cross-use cost, demands for upgraded equipment, and escalating operation cost, would not be able to support a full functioning, up-to-date library for the future.

At that time the city had a cross-use agreement with KCLS. Otherwise patrons of both systems could use each other facilities. In year 2008 the city paid to KCLS $125,000 as more of our patrons used their system over theirs. In years 2009 and 2010 the cross-use amount had grown to $278,000 annually, a clear indication we were not meeting our patrons needs. Simply put, cost and service levels prompted the decision to put the issue on the ballot.

An election was held and voters approved joining the KCLS system.

With that background we come to present day. “I want to save the Downtown Library”.

KCLS is building a new library in Newcastle, Skyway, Renton Highlands and expanding the Fairwood library, for a total 74,000 square feet of new and improved library service in the greater Renton area.

Looking at cross-use cost differential as previously stated, now with  current operation information, the downtown library which has had facilities and equipment upgrades, plus additional hours of operation, has lost more than 77,000 items of circulation from December 2010 to December 2011 time period.

Once again, the question is, does the current downtown library meet all of the community needs now and for the future?

The cost to upgrade the current library is estimated to be more than $9 million dollars, not including temporary relocation quarters.  The cost for the new library, built to specs, is estimated at $7.8 million. With site evaluation, cost considerations, KCLS input, and reams of information presented, the council made the right decision.

Taking into account the soon to come upgraded KCLS faculties, further drop of present downtown patron use, (even with limited upgrades), leads me to believe that it is very conceivable that the downtown library left in its current location would become obsolete and no longer operationally viable.   In time there could be no other option for KCLS, but close the downtown library.

On the other hand, having an affordable, latest state-of-the art facility, easily accessible, and more centrally located in a major traffic area ensures the continued benefit of a first-class library, in the downtown, for our citizens for years to come.

Moving the library to the Piazza area was a good decision then and even a better one today.

King Parker is a retired member of the Renton City Council.

 

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