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Beleaguered city library gets political funding

Gladstone’s library supporters received $15,000 from United for Libraries to receive expert advocacy training from the Citizens-Save-Libraries program.

In expectation of a proposal by Library Systems & Services to outsource the library at next month’s City Council meeting, supporters are hoping to learn better techniques for talking about the facility. At its meeting last Tuesday, councilors unanimously agreed to return $1.5 million in county funds intended for the city’s library expansion plan (“County demands Gladstone library funds,” Jan. 16).

They had to return the funds after losing two ballot-measure campaigns last year. One in May put buildings proposals larger than $1 million on the ballot; then citizens in November turned down the city’s plan to incur up to $7.5 million in debt to build a larger, regional library that would have combined the Oak Lodge Library.

Nancy Eichsteadt, president of the Gladstone Public Library Foundation, pointed out that 55 percent of the families at John Wetten Elementary School are on the free and reduced-lunch program, which indicates that many families can’t afford Internet access. Gladstone Mayor Wade Byers also visits the library to access the Web.

“The Gladstone Library has been under attack lately by people who want to whittle down government, and that’s been taking place across Clackamas County,” Eichsteadt said. “So we need to remind people of the importance of libraries and stop this outsourcing effort.”

Funded by the Neal-Schuman Foundation, advocacy experts will provide onsite training to help them develop blueprints for advocacy campaigns to restore, increase or save threatened library budgets. Those libraries and groups selected for training have committed to share their knowledge and experiences through presentations at local conferences, articles written for state library association journals, and via webinars and Skype calls.

Library Advocacy Now founder Patricia Glass Schuman argued libraries need articulate and savvy supporters “more than ever.” According to United for Libraries campaign literature, libraries continue their important functions to gather and organize the world of information and stories, making it freely available to the communities they serve: “Even though there is apparent competition in the marketplace for e-books, music, Internet access and print resources, these services are not free, and as in the days gone by, there are very few people who could afford to avail themselves of the wide world of information and knowledge in all its various formats that they’ll need for lifelong learning. Not only that, but because of the burgeoning information avenues and their concomitant expense, the gap between the information haves and have-nots is growing deeper every day.”

Included among the nine other libraries/groups selected nationwide for Citizens-Save-Libraries grants are the Clarkston (Mich.) Independence District Library, the Eisner Memorial Library of Red Bank, N.J., and the Friends of the Dallas (Texas) Public Library.