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Oak Grove's Concord School property could have 20,000-square-foot new library

It was almost two years ago that our community was on the verge of losing our library. Thousands of hours of work on the part of local community groups has brought us to this happier time where a new library is in our future.

Oak Lodge Community Library Advocates (OLCLA), a group dedicated to ensuring that our library would remain in the heart of our community, has partnered with other community groups such as the Oak Grove Community Council, Jennings Lodge CPO and efforts by numerous citizen activists.

Extensive community involvement is needed to shape the reality of our new library. A process is being developed that will soon enable citizens of the Oak Lodge Library service area to contribute their hopes and best ideas for our new library.

After almost two years of immersion in all things library, OLCLA has developed an inspiring vision that we would like to share with our neighbors now. We hope you will find our vision is one that coincides with your fondest dreams of our new library and our community.

We envision a new library of 20,000 square feet, which within the Clackamas County Library District, is average for a library serving a similar size population. Built on the Concord School property, the low-maintenance, high-performance library will be integrated with a new community park, featuring walking trails and seating among native vegetation and trees. This centrally located park would play host to an inclusive playground for children of all abilities, ensuring that no one is excluded. Community picnics, outdoor assemblies, library sponsored events, concerts and festivals would all be possible at this exceptional park.

In March of this year, the Clackamas County Library Board of Trustees in a letter to the Board of County Commissioners recommended a new freestanding library building built on the Concord School property, adjacent to a new community park, a vision congruent with that of OLCLA.

Advantages of a new building

A library designed and built to be compatible with the Library Service Area's budget and population is imperative. Cost overruns, frequently associated with remodeling or repurposing of older structures are more easily avoided.

Construction utilizing the latest environmentally friendly, and energy efficient materials results in low ongoing maintenance costs, maximizing funds available for programs and services.

Designing for flexible utilization of space avoids obsolescence by allowing for responsiveness and adaptability to changing technology, community needs and interests.

Designing for smooth integration with the outside environment, enhances and expands the built environment.

A new library building demonstrates a commitment to growing a vibrant economy with strong infrastructure, qualities that will allow the Oak Lodge area to attract new businesses and services for our growing population.

Why not locate the library in the Concord School Building?

There are some in the community who will wonder, "Why not put the library in the historic school building?"

This idea was never a cost effective alternative for our new library, but it was logical to consider this as an option, at least until the realization that the basement of this 81-year-old masonry building was FILE PHOTO: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Oak Lodge Community Library Advocates envision a new library building next to a remodeled Concord School building in Oak Grove.the only location capable of supporting the weight of a library. The basement is so clearly unacceptable, it is unnecessary to enumerate any of the other arguments against this location.

OLCLA firmly supports the preservation and re-purposing of the Concord School for the benefit of the community. Preliminary citizen input submitted to the Concord Partnership, already imagined a variety of potential uses. After the finalization of the property swap between NCPRD and NCSD, currently scheduled for January, there undoubtedly will be a process by which citizens will be encouraged to become involved in determining the best reincarnation for this lovely historic school building.

We are a large underserved population

The Oak Lodge Library service area includes over 30,000 citizens. After almost a decade of paying taxes designated to enhance library services and programs, our library remains woefully insufficient to serve community needs. For the last 26 years we have been paying other taxes specifically designated for parks and recreation, yet our area is still underserved.

Building a new library and park on the newly acquired Concord School 6-acre property, provides an unparalleled and exciting opportunity to redress this duel deficit of amenities.

We have made do for far too many years, with a library insufficient for our service area population. Located in an uninspired leased space with only six parking spaces and unsafe access to the entrance, the location is especially unfriendly to families with children, perhaps the most important segment of the population that a library hopes to serve.

It is the hope of OLCLA that our library service area neighbors will join in to contribute their best ideas to actualize this vision of a new library in an extraordinary park. Working together we can ensure that our new library will be the welcoming, inspiring learning center to which our library aspires, and the centerpiece that is needed by our growing community.

Leslie Shirk is writing for the Oak Lodge Community Library Advocates. More information can be found at

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