Submitted by Bob Warfield.
To be, or not to be, that is the question,
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
Slings and arrows thus aligned.
To wetted page did Tenzler close
By what choice may we now dispose
Or from that rooted tree renew
A thousand rings that yearly grew
And yet in closing duly vexed
We hastened mad, then de-annexed.
In doing so as we eschew,
This course with county in review,
We’ll chart a sky, with ease we thought
Until it dawned that we had bought.
The horse we’d sold, the saddle too,
And the same dilemma. Nothing new.
So, the Lakewood Library is closed. The Tenzler building, that much-loved iconic fixture with its enormous cross-cut slice of Douglas fir prominently centering Lakewood community as nothing else can is “worn out.” Some folks are mad, believing Pierce County Library System (PCLS) failed to save this treasured edifice from ruin as now brave citizens must. And the price to fix it up like new, calculated by experts, is bigger than that huge chunk of Doug fir – “$22 million” – at least.
Afoot comes a group of earnest citizens proposing separation from PCLS to make things right. The process is pretty simple and straight-forward, a committee, a ballot initiative and a vote. If a registered, resident majority says so, it would be a done deal, presumably paving the way for Lakewood’s pioneers to buy Tenzler and fix ‘er up – a few complications, wouldn’t be quick, but could be done. And it would show whomever is perceived to be responsible for the current state of Lakewood’s moribund libraries (we have two) that, by golly, “We can manage!”
Nearby, we have good examples of independent libraries: Tacoma and Puyallup. Each offers history and insight worth considering to weigh further pursuit of the separation under nascent consideration. On the whole, they are successful and inviting, perhaps enviable. But they are expensive and were established from a resource base that is no longer available (Carnegie) at times when the “cost of money” was less than daunting (1903, 1877 & 1913).
Looking back, it’s fair to say, Tenzler is a gem. Affection for its established place in our lives is strong as is a community sense of dismay that our assumptions and expectations regarding its “forever” presence and service were neglected. Whether some fault of responsibility for the condition of our libraries (Tenzler and Tillicum) rests with this PCLS administration, one previous or some association of library friends is now beside the point. Responsibility going forward rests with the current PCLS staff and board of trustees, and they are meeting that responsibility as any of us would – responsibly.
Looking forward, it becomes critical to observe that against contemporary American standards for the provision of urban library services, both “Tenzler and Tillicum” are seriously compromised library facilities. The one thing they each have going for them is “location.” But there’s the “rub,” Hamlet. Neither has existing space more than marginal to existing need.
The City of Lakewood in partnership with the PCLS convened a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to recommend remedial action. With help from community through survey and response, the CAC completed its work on October 26, anticipating a joint presentation of its recommendations to the Lakewood City Council and community on November 17. Then, it will be up to all of us to muster the will and imagination required to bring a library back to life for Lakewood and our Tillicum American Lake Gardens community.
The task ahead is not without challenge. City of Lakewood leadership is essential in partnership with PCLS. The imagination and determination of every citizen will be called to service in realizing a vision for cooperation and participation necessary to build our new libraries – matching the joyful welcome that Tenzler has shown over years of learning, sharing and informing the spirit of Lakewood community.