Public libraries in the digital age are more relevant than ever

Judith Davidoff:

On Valentine’s Day, Oregon village president Jeanne Carpenter merged her worlds, pledging to donate half of the day’s sales from her coffee shop to advance one of her civic passions: the building of a new library for Oregon.

“When I ran for president I had three things I really wanted to accomplish. And one of them was building a new library,” says Carpenter, who owns Firefly Coffeehouse & Artisan Cheese, located on Oregon’s main drag.

“We are such a growing community and people who are moving here for our good schools, our good food scene, are now demanding better resources,” adds Carpenter, who served seven years on the village board and is now in her first term as village president.

Carpenter says budget restraints meant the current library, which is outdated and cramped, never fully met the needs of the village, even in its early years. This time around, the community is putting its money where its mouth is. The village of 10,000 has earmarked $6 million for the new facility and large donors have pledged $1 million in private funds; the capital campaign launched Feb. 14 is aiming to bring in another $4 million in smaller donations.

“The modern library is going to be absolutely key to building the community and maintaining a strong democracy,” says Carpenter. “It’s what we see as a gathering place for thoughtful discussion. A place for people no matter their status, their wealth, their income. Where you can go to learn, to participate, to research. You can become part of something that is bigger than yourself.”