The Del Norte County

needs to remain in downtown Crescent City. Even more than that, it needs to be an anchor in downtown's on-going revitalization.

An idea being promoted by some community members would place the library on Harding Street. The district, College of the Redwoods and other government bodies then would fund and manage the facility.

While this plan might address short-term financial problems facing the library, it requires relocation to school district property outside the city core. Further, it lacks long-range vision by ignoring the central role libraries can play in economic development and enhancing a community's quality of life.

A strong downtown area that attracts people serves a variety of functions, such as places to shop, restaurants to eat and cultural activities to enjoy. The library, as a depository of information, serves the latter function. Indeed, libraries often are centers of civic activity, providing places where people hold meetings, hear guest speakers or gather to spend time. Most communities place their libraries in a traditional, central business district for this very reason.

The net effect of such a cultural attraction is that it brings people to the retail area. Someone who might not otherwise have a reason to go downtown is more likely to eat out or step into a store there if the library is one of their stops. The economic benefits of this are well documented in a multitude of studies. Every dollar spent on public libraries in South Carolina resulted in a direct economic net gain of $2.86, for example. That gain rose to $5.34 for every dollar spent in Vermont and to $6.54 in Florida.

The real question facing our community is if we are serious about downtown's revitalization. If so, then we ought to include the library as part of that effort. We should look at improving and ultimately expanding the physical space the library now occupies. We should consider ways that the library can better meet community needs as well as ways of funding those changes. We should look at how we can get the word out about what the library offers.

Our library belongs downtown. As plans are implemented for revitalizing that retail area, they ought to include ways of improving the library's ability to provide even more civic and cultural offerings. Indeed, the downtown needs just such a facility.