Dear Community (our letter in The Register-Guard)

A Foundation and Friends: Keeping You Connected to the Library

For most of us, the shelter-in-place requirements and social distancing orders have forced our lives to pivot rapidly. During the life-altering crisis that is the COVID-19 Pandemic, there continue to be hardships for nearly everyone in our community. The closure of schools, restaurants, businesses, parks, and many more venues has interrupted our daily routines. COVID-19 has dramatically highlighted many disparities in our lives as well. 

The quarantine has also greatly affected something of immeasurable civic value for everyone in Eugene – our public library.

And the closure of library buildings is so much more than just a temporary secession of people checking out books. The Eugene Public Library is a vibrant part of our downtown and Sheldon and Bethel neighborhoods, a gathering space for people and organizations alike, a vital free resource of digital and physical learning tools, and a sanctuary for all. With the buildings locked, thousands of our neighbors are cut off from services they relied on using every day of the week.

You might think everyone’s locked out and unserved, but they’re not. The Library has worked diligently to meet challenges our community faces by making online-use library cards available free of charge to all living in the Eugene area, even those outside city limits, following the Eugene Public Library’s temporary closure. Library staff have actively engaged with patrons remotely to issue new library cards, support use of the online features, recommend materials, and offer virtual programming, such as story times and book clubs, for children and teens. Still, there are services that COVID-19 made it impossible to provide, which only highlights the importance of restoring and supporting those services.

While the Library prepares to reopen gradually with safety as the highest priority, its staff has worked from their homes to keep the Library going. We are continually inspired by how our library and libraries across the world are exploring new models to serve their patrons and increase accessibility to their collections and services. Equitable information access is an American ideal, and COVID-19 has proven that the critical work of libraries goes far beyond being buildings that contain collections. 

As leaders from the two organizations that advocate and mobilize for our Library’s resources, we see the impact of the Library and its community of supporters every day. The Eugene Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Eugene Public Library are proud to work together to support each other and the Library during COVID-19.

We are also proud to see the value of our contributions through virtual programming, online resources, the Summer Reading program, and even sewing machines from the Maker Hub that have been used recently to produce over 800 masks for local distribution. 

When the phased reopening begins, the Foundation and the Friends will warmly welcome back the community. It will certainly not be business as usual for the library for a while. Yet we are committed to helping our Library thrive and innovate ways of reaching our community. The Eugene Public Library will provide an update to City Council in July, proposing the renewal of the Library’s five-year local option operating levy. As our community faces long-term effects from COVID-19, the levy will enable the Library to address resulting needs that have emerged. 

The levy will expand services for community recovery including workforce development, educational training, and other high quality, free services that will benefit community members of all ages. It will support children and youth by providing resources to reduce summer learning slides and gaps in digital learning, expand early childhood literacy, and increase 3rd grade reading levels, which are often indicators of future academic success. Additionally, the levy will provide our community with essential access to information. The Library serves many vulnerable populations, including unhoused community members, and access to free information and methods of connecting is more urgent now than ever. 

As we head toward that eagerly awaited day when Eugene’s Library opens its doors again, we ask you to be its advocates and champions alongside us. 

For more information about how you can help, visit the Eugene Public Library Foundation or the Friends of the Eugene Public Library. Together, these two nonprofits raise funds for our library. The Foundation seeks public and private donations, supporting library materials, programming, and its efforts to inspire lifelong learning and to enrich the entire community. The Foundation is a funder of the Public School Access Initiative, a pilot project to provide library cards to all public schools students in Eugene.

Hundreds of volunteers work year-round through the Friends to sell donated books at sales, a used bookstore and online. Money raised by the Friends supports programs for children and adults. With the primary annual fundraisers of both of our organizations having been canceled (including the Friends’ book sale), stay tuned for new ways to connect and raise much-needed funds for the Library. 

Reed Davaz McGowan
Executive Director
Eugene Public Library Foundation

Connie Regali
President of the Board of Directors
Friends of the Eugene Public Library

June 2020: Important Announcements from the Foundation

This year, the Eugene Public Library reached out far beyond the boundaries of its walls. Due to COVID-19, the Library reimagined how it serves our community and opened its virtual doors as wide as possible. The Foundation is honored to be a philanthropic partner of the Library and provide a pathway for our donors to directly enhance library services in Eugene during this turbulent time.  

Because of the generosity of our donors, business partners, and foundations, we proudly presented an “IOU” for $288,700 to Library Services Director Will O’Hearn at our online Board meeting on Monday, June 8th. Don’t worry, we’ll hand off a real check this month too! This, in addition to $86,974  gifted to the Library earlier this year and $105,000 for Imagination Library costs, brings our total giving to literacy in Eugene to an incredible $480,674 for our 2019-2020 fiscal year. This financial support will have a profound impact on our entire community. 

Shortly after I joined the Foundation as the Executive Director in January, we faced the cancellation of our largest annual fundraiser and the temporary closure of the Library due to COVID-19. Despite this, we were still able to support the launch of our Public School Access Initiative to bring library cards to all public school students in Eugene and maintain the tremendous level of giving of previous years. 

I am inspired at the level of support our community of donors has continued to show throughout the challenges of the past several months. This demonstrates an extraordinary understanding of the importance of the Library to our community, making our gift this year even more meaningful. 

In community,

Reed Davaz McGowan, Executive Director

Black lives matter. We acknowledge that many in our community experience pervasive, structural racism every day, and for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community members living in Eugene, this fight is neither new nor fleeting. As we support the Eugene Public Library, our donors and philanthropy greatly impact our community. We are committed to listening and learning how we can actively promote anti-racist practices in our efforts to support the Library’s work as a conduit for learning and information, amplifying underrepresented voices and serving as a welcoming public institution for all.

For those seeking additional information, please click here for resources and curated reading lists.

Library staff have been working behind the scenes since the Library’s temporary closure to greatly expand usage of online resources. Since the closure, Library staff have fielded 3,400 patron calls, issued 700 new library cards, and seen a 70% rise in the use of online resources. The Library extended free online access to all living in the broader Eugene community to ensure wide access to information and materials as well. 

But, of course, there is something about checking out physical materials from the Library that just can’t be replaced – whether that’s the feeling of turning the pages of a book or putting on a DVD of a film you’ve been eagerly waiting to watch.

Starting this week following public health guidance, Downtown Library book returns opened during limited hours: Mondays through Saturdays, 7am-5pm.  At this point, book returns are only open at the Downtown branch, though you can return material from any branch there.

Beginning on Wednesday, patrons can schedule hold pickups at all three branches, including Bethel and Sheldon.  

The hold pick-ups are not limited to books but apply to anything and everything that can be put on hold at the Library, including DVDs & Blu-Ray, video games, audio books, music CDs, and more!

Cardholders are not limited to holds made before the Library’s closure, but can add to their list of requests. Library staff will be filling the existing 5000+ holds first, so patron patience is appreciated as they get to newer holds. Have some books on hold you know you won’t get to right away? Patrons can choose to “suspend” holds – but don’t worry – a suspended request continues to climb up the waitlist, and Library staff wait to put it aside for you until you choose to “reactivate” that title.

Anyone living in the Eugene area is welcome to a free online-use library card at this time – all you have to do is give the Library a call at 541-682-5450.

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