Submitted by Walter Neary, Lakewood.
Many of my Lakewood neighbors heard news of, and maybe even took, a survey earlier this year about the central Lakewood and Tillicum libraries. I had the pleasure of attending on Oct. 21 a study session of the Pierce County Library Board of Trustees. They learned the survey results and then had a great discussion about the libraries. I think I was the only member of the public there, so I thought I’d report out. Forgive me for being a little rusty in my writing as the Lakewood Journal was in business a long time ago.
Here’s the short version: the library board seems to be a smart group of folks. They have realized through the survey and through talking to people that Lakewood is interested in better and safer libraries, but that people want to know what can be done with the current Lakewood library. There’s definite interest – all the way from Lakewood residents to library staff to library trustees – to invest in a better library for Tillicum. If there’s a vote on spending any new dollars to do all this, it might come in 2022.
[Editor’s Note: If you are wondering, “I never heard about any survey,” you can see the original announcement here.]
The library board will consider all this again in an official meeting on Nov. 13 (you can get more information about board meetings here: www.piercecountylibrary.org/about-us/board-trustees/agendas.htm
So that’s the short version. If you’d like to know more, I’ll now share some findings from the survey and the discussion at the board meeting. The study the library staff did of Lakewood shows someone was listening. They captured Lakewood pretty well. Yes, we want more for Tillicum – people who live in and around there deserve more in their library. But in terms of the central library, people like the current building and location. And they love the Doug Fir cross section. One thing I picked up is that the library board gets it that the historical display is important!
So the library board has figured out that if they want to remodel, expand or move the library, they had better explain themselves: explain the alternatives, explain the costs and educate people. This is one reason they’re talking about presenting voters with choices in 2022 rather than sooner.
It’s a bit unheard of for a governing body to take so long to consider spending money. 2022 gives us lots of time to look at alternatives. But of course we all need to work together to stay informed as the process of what to do with the Lakewood libraries continues.
To me, and I’m sure to almost anyone who was around for the start of cityhood, this was the vision for how we’d do things in Lakewood: consider fiscally responsible alternatives, educate people, and make informed choices where people come first, not government interests.
Here are some findings from the survey:
- 943 people took the survey, with other people talking to surveyors outside businesses and at community events (and the libraries of course)
- Stated directly in the report: “Lakewood residents love the existing Lakewood Library building.”
- 64 percent of respondents are “very interested” in a new library. Another 20 percent are “kind of interested.”
- For Lakewood main branch, people want a library that is community-focused and convenient. The top requested features are technology and quiet spaces.
- For Tillicum, people want a library that is community-focused and welcoming. The top requested features are technology and active spaces for noisy activities.
- With all those references to technology, people were also clear they want books and magazines on paper.
Safety and perceptions of safety are issues. 24 percent said that they don’t feel safe in and around the Tillicum library; main Lakewood library, it was 18 percent. Interestingly, people ages 35 to 49 are three times less likely to feel safe than people in their 60s. No one at the meeting seemed sure why (maybe those younger folks are coming with small children, which would add to concerns?)
I’m attaching a graphic from the report that summarizes a lot of data. One of the charts refers to Sumner, where they performed a similar study, but I also included a chart that’s specific to Lakewood.
Two disclaimers: I live two blocks from the current main library on Wildaire. And I don’t work for or represent the library system so this report is entirely unofficial. I’m sure they’ll publish their own account of the findings, and you’ll probably hear something from city government as well.
All that said, I hope this brief report is useful to my fellow Lakewood residents as we all collaborate to plan a future for libraries in Lakewood.
Walter Neary, who was editor of the Lakewood Journal in the mid-90s, served on the Lakewood City Council from 2004 through 2011. He and Steve Dunkelberger have written two photo histories of Lakewood.Print This Post