A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Is it twilight for downtown library?

Written July 23rd, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The Albany Carnegie Library one evening in December 2018.

Casting about for ways to save money, the Albany City Council is talking about possibly “repurposing” the downtown Carnegie Library. What that means, apparently, is closing the library and using the building for something else.

This was one of several ideas kicked around at a council work session Monday. Nobody decided anything. And before the library idea goes any further, Mayor Sharon Konopa says there would have to be lots of “outreach” to the community first.

The downtown library branch costs about $215,000 a year to operate, about $37,000 for running the building and the rest for staffing. Closing it might save the cost of the equivalent of two employees.

Councilors Bessie Johnson and Rich Kellum seemed to be most interested in this “repurposing” idea. Councilman Dick Olsen was against it.

Kellum says the building might serve as the combined office of the Albany Visitors Association and the Albany Downtown Association, both of which get a share of the city’s room tax on overnight guests, and perhaps other agencies as well.

Closing the dowtown library is just one of more than a dozen ideas the council talked about Monday, in addition to a list of ways to raise more money. Putting a tax on soft drinks and on beds in assisted-living homes were among the more far-out possibilities, some of which may get more play in the months to come.

City Manager Peter Troedsson asked councilors to rank their choices, and he’ll compile and report the results. If you’re up to it, you can listen to the discussion here. (hh)

19 responses to “Is it twilight for downtown library?”

  1. Terry Crook says:

    Has anyone looked into the Carnegie aspect of that. My understanding is that Carnegie libraries can be used as libraries only or turned back over to the Carnegie foundation. I would research that prior to any decisions. May save someone problems in the future

  2. Debbie Moffat says:

    I would very much like to be part of any community meetings regarding these options. I am quite concerned especially with some of the alternatives. Sounds like some need an education! Maybe read more books?

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    What would Andrew Carnegie want?

    The steel tycoon’s legacy is not about bricks and mortar. Instead, he wanted everybody to have access to information and knowledge.

    The best solution here is to sell the building and funnel the money back into Albany’s existing library system, either directly or through the foundation. That way Carnegie’s vision is carried forward.

    Let the private marketplace decide the best use for this relic. Or, have CARA buy the building and let them entice a crony to ensure the building fulfills CARA’s cataract laden vision. CARA did this with the Wells Fargo building, why not an old library?

    • Jennifer Stuart says:

      How does having CARA buy the building do anything? It already belongs to the city.

  4. Bobby Roberts says:

    City government, never waste an opportunity to discus “a list of ways to raise more money.”

  5. hj.anony1 says:

    Soda tax is not such a “far-out” idea. Seems a logical extension of those sin taxes we all love so much. It already exists in several cities…Philly, Seattle, Oakland, S.F. etc.

    Tax all soda, Save the library!!

  6. Catherine says:

    I am interested in what the total price of the flower baskets they hung this year. While they are very beautiful it is a bit overdone.

  7. Tim Siddiqui says:

    The presence of this library adds class to everything downtown. Especially living downtown.

  8. Shawn Dawson says:

    For those who believe there is value in saving historic buildings, this is one of the more historic in Albany. The fact that it may be enjoyed by anyone in the city, that it is functional as well as beautiful, makes it a building to be preserved.

    Converting it to just another set of offices for some city agency would betray the history of this building. It was built for a purpose, it has been used throughout its history for that purpose, and should continue to be. History is more than just a building. History is also the purpose, the people, and the function of a place.

    It would be a betrayal of historic preservation to shut down this library.

    -Shawn Dawson

    • Dick Olsen says:

      Thank you Shawn, It’s been a long haul (mostly done with Carnegie foundation money) to strip paint from woodwork, repaint with appropriate colors, replace “modern” lighting with period fixtures, return original furniture to the building, repair windows , replace screens etc. It would be tragic to see the building vandalized by well meaning but ignorant remuddlers to turn it to some other use.

  9. Sheri Somerville says:

    Hasso Herring, do you know how much of that $215,000 cost actually comes from the city budget? My understanding is that there is a library foundation that covers most of the cost of operating that branch.

  10. Albany YIMBY says:

    We can’t stop subsidizing our suburbs East of town and in North Albany, so the affluent can have their McMansions while city dwellers pay for their streets, lights, sewers and schools with our property taxes: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/03/05/sprawl-costs-the-public-more-than-twice-as-much-as-compact-development/

    • rich kellum says:

      Your example is from Canada….. the new “Mcmansions” in North Albany and the east side.. the developer is the one who makes the streets, puts in the water and sewer lines…. so when the mcmansion owner buys the house they pay for the cost of that, unlike what happened downtown years ago… if you want to see where the money goes, go on cityofalbany.net and click on where the money goes, enter the value of your house, the county it is in and see where the money is spent………. do both counties, Benton pays less in tax..

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        Oh, because Canada is such a different country from the USA…

        So let me think, do you really think that suburban dwellers pay their fair share of taxes taking into account the cost of the services they need to be provided for?

        McMansions or not, urban development in Albany sucks big deal and it’s starting to take its toll, like for example, the possible closure of the library.

  11. Kevin Hart says:

    I live downtown and want the library to stay. It is a wonderful addition to round out our downtown area. Some stuff is not a straight dollar decision. We waste a lot more on stuff that is not needed. Keep the library and cut something else. Not everyone downtown is well off and I know several who use this branch for entertainment and enlightenment, which we could all use some more of. We have plenty for flowers and fancy streetlights but not books? What does that say about Albany?


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