In celebration of libraries | Editorial

Were someone to suggest today that we establish a network of institutions across the country that could lend books for free, provide literacy-based programs, offer computers that anyone could log on to and act as a taxpayer-supported hub for community life, many would likely term it a radical notion.

Thankfully, the concept of the free public library was established in the United States sometime in the 18th or 19th century, depending on one’s source. And today, we’re the lucky beneficiaries of this foresight.

Libraries remain one of our finest public institutions, completely egalitarian in nature, readily accessible, friendly and publicly financed. In many parts of the country, they’re having to remake themselves for the digital age, ensuring their relevancy. But for the most part, they remain that “third place,” the center of a community’s life right after one’s home and one’s school or workplace.

On Vashon, that seems particularly true, as this weekend underscored. Vashon’s branch opened up at its temporary site on Saturday, and the parking lot at Vashon Plaza — where it’s based — quickly filled up.

People flocked to the small, bustling branch, picking up books they had on hold, claiming some time on a computer and perusing the shelves. The Vashon branch is part of the King County Library System, considered — with more than 21 million items in circulation at any given time — the busiest system in the country.

Thanks to a bond passed nine years ago, the branch at Ober Park is about to undergo a significant expansion. In the meantime, we have a surprisingly cozy site to claim as our community’s third place.


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