A library in city hall?

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Reporter’s Notebook is a new feature in the Keizertimes. Here our writers and editors will offer a glimpse behind the headlines to stories and issues bubbling just below the surface.

The Keizer Community Library, a nonprofit volunteer-run organization, wants to know if city officials are interested in having a library in the Keizer Civic Center.

Keizer is Oregon’s largest city without a public library, and the city council cut off the organization’s low-four-figures operating stipend several years ago.

First some background: Some city officials, in particular Mayor Lore Christopher, want longer operating hours, an expanded museum and more library space at the Keizer Heritage Center building, a historic structure that once housed Keizer School and is next door to the Keizer Civic Center.

The Keizer Heritage Foundation, the private board that runs the building, and the city have been in protracted negotiations over a new lease – the building sits on city-owned land. (Full disclosure: Keizertimes Publisher Lyndon Zaitz is a board member, and former Publisher Les Zaitz helped lead a campaign that raised more than $275,000 in private donations to restore the building.)

City leaders have in hand a trump card: A sweetheart lease deal of just $100 per year.

Inside its walls resides the library, Councilors have rejected the board’s proposal that the library move to a modular building; the library isn’t able to display all its books due to cramped space.

Should the Heritage Foundation not wish to comply with councilors’ wishes, the council “suggests” reimbursing some $250,000 in urban renewal money granted to the foundation when it sought to move the building from behind Schoolhouse Square to its current location.

A July 14 letter from Keizer Community Library Board President Leroy Horsley suggests another way the city could get some cash: Move the library to within its own walls, and get rent.

The library’s proposal includes paying $10,000 upon executing the lease and $2,000 per year in exchange for 2,000 square feet within the civic center.

The city could take over the library, making it a fully public facility, if it wishes, Horsley’s letter states

For her part, Mayor Lore Christopher called the proposal “premature,” saying she wants to hammer out the details of the city’s relationship with the Heritage Center before considering it.

 - Jason Cox

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