Giving that Inspires features our Eugene Public Library Foundation supporters whose time and energy have benefited our public library. The Eugene Public Library Foundation Board of Directors, Emeritus Board, and Staff humbly thank and honor our donors for their continued service and support of the Eugene Public Library and the programs that are funded through the Eugene Public Library Foundation.
This month, it is our pleasure to feature Larry Deckman. Larry joined the EPLF Board of Directors for thirteen years, and also served as Board President 2010-11. This interview was conducted by EPLF Board Vice President Lisa Calevi, in June 2017.
What brought you to Eugene?
I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Eugene in the summer of ’71 to attend the UO. I also went to law school in Eugene, and have practiced what I like to call “preventive law” in town since 1985. Like doctors who practice preventive medicine, I like to see clients when they’re legally healthy, and advise them how to stay out of a lawyer’s office in the future – real estate law, estate planning, areas like that.
What’s your earliest memory of a library?
I don’t know if this counts but on the day that I was born, on her way to deliver me, my mother stopped off at the library to return some books!
That’s quite a story! So the library holds a special place in your heart?
A library reminds me of all of the souls that have preceded me…as if they’re all there reaching out across time, sharing knowledge so, yes, there’s a very personal connection for me. But the library is also central to this community. You know, we live in a special city – our embrace of diversity, of the entire socio-economic spectrum – and our library is in that sweet spot serving the entire community as no other entity does. It offers so many resources to open up one’s consciousness, assist in one’s self-development. We have divisions in our society but I think the library offers a place where people can help themselves. If you are like me, you see people asking for money or food, and think “there but for the grace of God go I”. If you want to help these people, I say: Support the library! It’s a place that anyone can go to improve their lot. I really do consider it the mind of the community. And at the same time, through the kind and considerate staff, the library also offers hospitality to everyone from children to those a bit down on their luck.
The library as the heart and mind of the body politic – that’s very powerful imagery.
The library illuminates in the fullest sense; it casts an inner light sharing both warmth and knowledge.
Your view that the library plays an almost transcendent role in society is quite inspiring.
The library is central to the question of life in this town. If you use the library, think about making a gift to it when you leave this Earth. After all, it is by participating in and furthering our community, that we know we are truly alive – that’s how we all grow. I don’t buy that stuff about “taking care of #1” [ourselves]. We’re with ourselves all the time. I think its liberating to get a perspective that goes beyond self.
You’ve given generously of your time and expertise as a member (and later president) of the Eugene Public Library Foundation Board of Directors. How do you use the library?
The library is central to who I am. It is a treasure trove for a curious mind. I have wide ranging interests, and at any given time I’m reading 50 books. There are so many books out there! These days, I particularly love audio books. I frequently check out music and movies, and always look at the Lucky Day section. I’ve probably checked out thousands of books from the Eugene Public Library over the years. But our library is so much more than books. It’s almost as if it offers you a pure container of oxygen to breathe…I go in and feel almost effervescent.
Besides reading voraciously, volunteering your time on behalf of the community, and practicing law, what do you do?
My wife Sloane and I travel a lot. I’m also an inventor and have invented many things that have sold and are in wide use. This includes constellation star maps and star wheels that help us more about the stars in the sky. I’m also working on a book about the starry sky.
Where will you be for next month’s eclipse?
I’m fortunate to have a client in John Day that has offered me and my wife the use of his home. This won’t be my first eclipse, though – I’ve seen total solar eclipses many times and they’re incredible. A word of advice: don’t stay in Eugene to view this one, it’s not good enough! Go to Corvallis or Salem. If you stay in Eugene for the eclipse, it’s like having a lottery ticket that’s just one digit off the winning number and saying “Ok, that’s just as good”. No, it’s not! Seeing 99% of the eclipse isn’t nearly as fun.
This month we are honored to feature Kim Esrig, who served on the Eugene Public Library Foundation Board of Directors for six years (2008–2014). This interview was conducted by EPLF Board Member and Imagination Library Advisory Board Member Ellen Todras in March 2017.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in Fullerton, California which was my mother’s hometown. We knew just about everyone there. I met my husband, David, on a trip on the Rhine River, but it turned out that we grew up in neighboring towns. In 1997, David was teaching at Yale University School of Medicine but was interested in leaving academia. We heard about a job in Eugene and have been here ever since. Our twins, Zach and Lauren, are seniors in college now—Zach at Stanford and Lauren at USC. Gregory, our youngest, is a sophomore at Notre Dame.
How did you become involved with the Eugene Public Library Foundation?
I love talking to people and really enjoy community involvement. When our children were in elementary school (French Immersion), I jumped into fundraising and school activities. My interest in education led me to serve on the Eugene Public Library Foundation Board for six years.
What EPLF Board activities were memorable for you?
I really liked working on the Media Outreach committee and on Booked for the Evening, which I chaired for four years. I fondly remember the presentation from the August Wilson play Fences, with Sharon Posner’s playwright son, Aaron, rewriting a scene for us.
Since leaving the Foundation Board, what have you been up to?
I love to cook and I am a founder of Positive Community Kitchen. I also just restarted my medical recruitment business, Carver Select, after a long hiatus.
What are your early memories of books and libraries?
Our family made weekly trips to the local library. I remember coming home with my arms loaded with books. My grandfather further stimulated our love of reading by paying his grandchildren a nickel for each book they read. It worked!
Please share with us why you feel passionately about public libraries, and Eugene Public Library in particular.
Public libraries connect my passions for community building and education. Our library stands firmly and dramatically in the center of Eugene, a physical touchstone for our city, and for its youth and all to enjoy.
Kathie Tippens Wiper
Our first profile features Kathie Wiper, former EPLF Board President and wife of the late Tom Wiper, visionary and co-chair of the Eugene Library Capital Campaign. This interview was conducted by EPLF Board Member Lisa Rubenstein Calevi on December 7, 2016. We are inspired by and grateful for Kathie, and all who give in the spirit of improving our community through library service.
Do you remember your earliest experience of a library?
I remember the Hyde County Library in Highmore, South Dakota, close to where I was born and grew up. I come from a family of ranchers and as a little girl – I must have been four or so – I remember how special it was when I had a book between my hands.
What brought you to Oregon?
I grew up in South Dakota, and became a teacher there. But I got tired of bitter winters with their blizzards and freezing temperatures, and also the hot summers. I kind of liked the Northwest and decided to journey out here. I wanted a place that had seasons, not just the extreme seasons of South Dakota.
Do you have any memories of teaching that would like to share?
I never met a student I didn’t like. I taught for 30 years and the thing I loved most was seeing the kids grow so much. I taught public speaking and radio/tv production at Sheldon High School from 1970-1996. The radio/tv production class came about because District 4J owned a radio station at the time (KRVM) and it seemed like a good way to teach students public speaking without them having to learn it the traditional way. The students wrote and read the news, played the music, produced PSAs, maintained the logs – everything was tied to the curriculum. It was so great to see them grow and assume these responsibilities.
How did that experience evolve into your work with the Foundation?
My husband Tom, who was an elementary school teacher, was with the Foundation early on, and he agreed to chair the capital campaign for a new library with the honorary chairs Ted and Marie Baker. I supported him fully in that. There are so many memories from that time. I remember when we dug into the dirt that would become the foundation of our new library – that was an amazing part. There were also times when the city worried that it couldn’t put in the dollars needed and thinking we couldn’t possibly find the funds, and Tom would say “Of course we can, we’ll raise it!” and that happened….and the black tie Grand Opening in January 2003—well, that was unforgettable, too. When Tom died suddenly in October 2004, I continued his work on the board and eventually served as chair.
What initiative were you most proud of during your tenure as the EPLF chair?
A real big step for us was the creation of the Homework Hotline. This was a time when librarians were no longer being staffed in schools and we saw that kids didn’t have certain tools that would be conducive to learning. Some of these kids didn’t even have homes, let alone computers. So [Library Director] Connie Bennett really helped us move on that. It was a big step in getting kids the help and services they needed to succeed.
That speaks to the role that a library plays in its community. In your opinion, why else are libraries important?
Contrary to what some say, I believe that libraries are actually becoming more important than ever before. Libraries are the great equalizer. They really do serve all people, regardless of station in life. And we are fortunate, because our library has adapted really well to the technological changes we’ve seen. It’s still a place you can go to hold a book in your hand, but now you can come use the computers to look for a job, or do other forms of research…or even make something at the Maker’s Hub. Our library truly provides something for everyone. …you can always to come read, and reading is so important. You can check out a book. But there are also so many great programs for kids that the Foundation supports that get them interested in literature. One of these is the Imagination Library – giving a child a book each month for them to hold in their hand, helping them build a library of their own! It’s so important.
It sounds like the Eugene Public Library holds a special place in your heart.
I love teaching and learning so much and a library really goes hand in hand with that. But our Library has been successful on so many other levels. It’s such an important part of Eugene, and has really played an important role in the development of downtown. I think it was really the impetus for so many things – it really moved downtown Eugene onto a very important path and continues to be a real anchor for downtown and everyone in the community. It truly provides something for whoever you are — one of the many reasons why I choose to support it.
Do you have a favorite book?
I don’t have a favorite book but I have a favorite genre – historical fiction. I love Frances Parkinson Keys’ novels and I also like Ken Follett’s work quite a lot. I particularly like historical fiction that is pretty accurate – that doesn’t wander off too far away from history.