2012: Aloha gets its own community library
Editor's note: This story is part of the The Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that captivated readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
Today, counting branch locations, there are some 16 public libraries all over Washington County — really, all over Washington County, to the point where it sometimes seems you can't talk too loudly on any given street corner without a librarian telling you to shush.
But back before September 2012, in the middle of that network of libraries, there was a rather large gap in between Beaverton and Hillsboro, south of Highway 26.
On Sept. 22, 2012, that changed with the grand opening of the Aloha Community Library. It wasn't a large library — and it still isn't, although it has grown over the past several years. But it was a library, one that was by and for the people of Aloha, an unincorporated community that is among the Portland metro area's poorest and most underserved.
The library has always been a labor of love for the people who started it and continue to operate it.
"There are a lot of unmet needs here, and people are figuring out they've got to come together and do something about them," explained Douglas Hoy, president of the library association, shortly before the Aloha Library's grand opening. "Aloha needs a library. Hillsboro and Beaverton have libraries, but you have to get in your car and drive there to use them."
The library opened along Southwest Farmington Road, signed as Highway 10, just across the street from Mountain View Middle School — an ideal location, even though it's in a strip mall, which was home to one of the region's last Bales Thriftway supermarkets until October 2019.
Co-founder Eric Squires admitted he had to learn library science pretty much from scratch as he worked to establish the library. But for him, a longtime resident and graduate of Aloha High School, it was worth it.
"Aloha really wants this, and they're telling us with their attendance, checkouts, their donations and support," Squires told The Times in November 2012, about two months after the library's grand opening. "It's just a miracle we've gotten to this point."
The library has since moved into a larger space at the strip mall — 17455 S.W. Farmington Road, Suite 26A, near the intersection of Highway 10 and Southwest Kinnaman Road — and added books, staff and programming.
In November 2015, voters overwhelmingly approved a local option levy that allowed the Aloha Library to join Washington County Cooperative Library Services, the network of public libraries in the county. Today, the library is an active and growing member of the system.
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