In This Issue

President’s NoteLibraries of the World
Letter from ReedHarlem Renaissance
Giving That Inspires: Carol HildebrandImagination Library Updates
Library Staff Spotlight: Alec Chunn   What Are We Reading?
Library Levy InformationUpcoming Events
Traveler’s Spotlight Submissions

I recently came across a comment by an attendee of the 2019 Portland Book Festival, who spoke of “why books and words are important—how we are all human and how we all need that emotional connection and community.” The Eugene Public Library immediately comes to mind as I consider that observation. Even with the present limited operations, the library opens doors and windows to so many parts of the world, including the world of the self. The Library is and will remain the pulsing heart of the Eugene community.

Eugene voters recognized this truth in 2015 when they approved a five-year Local Option Levy. The funds generated by this modest levy (an average of $37 per year over the five-year period) allowed the Library to:

  • Increase hours in all branches
  • Expand programs and services
  • Provide more materials and technology

In July, the City Council agreed to ask voters to renew the levy, at a slightly lower rate. You will see the evy on your November 3 ballot. And do see the interview with Carol Hildebrand in this newsletter on how you can support the levy even prior to the upcoming election.

The Library needs these funds more than ever, with the demand for digital resources up 75% since the pandemic began. More than 1,000 new library cards have been issued in the past four months. The Eugene community depends on  its vibrant Library to help everyone through this time of crisis. Please check out the Library Levy website at for more information.

We hope you enjoy the many interesting articles in this edition of our newsletter. There’s a delightful interview with Youth Services Librarian Alec Chunn; and longtime Library supporter (and former director) Carol Hildebrand just sparkles in the donor interview. Read about the amazing renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library in Washington, DC, in our Libraries of the World column. And Executive Director Reed Davaz McGowan calls our attention to the upcoming Virtual Imagination Library Luncheon—mark your calendars for September 24! Readers have so enjoyed our relatively new column about what people at the Foundation are reading—and we’d love to hear what you are reading, too.

Wishing you all beautiful summer days, and wishing you good health as well,
Ellen Todras

Over the last several months, we have been working with the Library to learn how we can address emerging needs brought by COVID-19. Resulting from these conversations, we are pleased to announce the designation of $25,000 from the Frank Falch estate to establish the Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund is a one-year project to support the Library as its staff develops innovative ways of serving our community in response to COVID-19 and the reduction of in-person services at branches. With its priority to reach underserved community members, we look forward to experimental projects that engage people where and when they need library services the most. Please reach out to me via email or phone if you’d like to learn more or support this project. 

With the school year approaching, our Public School Access Initiative will enrich all public students in Eugene by providing library services to supplement school-based learning. In facing uncertain months ahead, we are proud to support student success and enhance library services for our entire community in partnership with the Eugene Public Library and 4J and Bethel school districts. 

As we enter the late summer, I’m looking forward to having more opportunities to “meet” you all at our upcoming events. Please read about our events and get your tickets now for the annual, and now virtual, Imagination Library Luncheon on Thursday, September 24th at 11:45am. Enjoy time with your friends, the Foundation community, and local authors Bob Welch and Andre Royal Sr. as we raise funds for children’s literacy together. Look in your mailboxes for your invitation soon! 

In community, 
Reed, Executive Director

Giving that Inspires introduces you to a Eugene Public Library Foundation supporter. This month’s profile features Carol Hildebrand, former Eugene Public Library Director and EPLF Board member, and now Emeritus EPLF Board Member. She and her husband Duane – who many know as the person behind the beautifully handcrafted birdhouses and treasure chests featured at recent Booked auctions – currently live at Cascade Manor. Carol spoke with us by phone in early August 2020.

Do you remember your earliest experience of a library?
I grew up in the country, near a small town in South Dakota. The “library” was located in the basement of City Hall. It had about six shelves. I didn’t see a real public library until college. I would take my student ID and go downtown to use it at the library. Of course no one had ever heard of Mitchell, SD – or Dakota Wesleyan, where I went to college – until George McGovern. He was a graduate and taught there, though he was already in Washington, DC by the time I arrived. 

What brought you to Oregon?
A job. My husband is from North Dakota but we met in Seattle at the University of Washington – at library school. There were lots of us Prairie Dogs out there. After we got our degrees, we took jobs in different states (Iowa and Minnesota). Later, we decided to get married and go back to Seattle. Duane got a job in Hood River, OR – a good first step – so we moved there in 1970. Eventually I became Librarian at the Lake Oswego library. We came to Eugene in 1982 when I started as the Assistant City Librarian. At the time, the Librarian was a very charismatic character named Jim Meeks. He loved to tell stories and sit around and talk. His last name was odd, because he was anything but [meek]. When we had the first Eugene Celebration, he entered the bookmobile in the parade and marched out in front of it waving at everyone. I became the Eugene Public Library Director – by then they’d changed the title to Director – in 1990 and retired in 2002.

What do you remember most about your job? 
All the customers. I always got to talk to the people who had “a helpful suggestion” to make. Getting to know the library’s many friends and supporters – that was fun. And of course getting to pick out all those books on my way home. It was just part of the routine of leaving work: purse, keys and bringing home books. I always have to have a pile of books around or I don’t feel dressed.

Your work evolved into board service for the Eugene Public Library Foundation. What initiative were you most proud of during your tenure there?
The thing I’m proudest of, and worked hardest on, was the current downtown library building.  There was such a dedicated group of people that worked on that. The 13th & Olive library was built in 1959. At the time, it was wonderful and new and huge, and nobody could have anticipated how much Eugene would grow in the 60s and 70s. But by 1982, they were shelving books in the basement – there was just no room left in the building. We worked for years to get a new library. The EPLF raised $5 million to get it done, which was a lot of money in those days. I also served as the Liaison between the Foundation and Friends of the Library boards for close to a decade.

You’re still an active advocate for the Library. Tell me about your involvement with the Libraries for Everyone campaign. 
I’m proud to be volunteering with Libraries for Everyone – Vote Yes! to promote a small levy on the November 2020 ballot that will bring a huge benefit for the entire community. This is a renewal of a levy that we passed in 2015. What that levy did is add 22 hours per week to the schedules of the Sheldon and Bethel branches and Sunday morning hours at the downtown location. It added a big chunk for more books and electronic materials and things like our Maker Hub, plus classes and programs where kids and adults can learn so many things. This levy will continue that. During the pandemic, some people thought, “Oh, well, the library is closed.” But there’s been huge activity there! The staff has been working flat out since the virus hit. Use of the Library’s virtual resources are up almost 75% and we’ve issued nearly 1000 new library cards – people are signing up more than ever! 

I think the pandemic has helped people realize how critical a public library is for access and skill building – and it’s not just families with kids, but adults and seniors as well. Not everyone has a laptop at home. Have you ever looked around at how many library branches are near senior apartment buildings? People love their branches and need to be able to keep them open. And the library needs the funding not just for more books but for more electronic resources for people to use from home. Talk about opportunities for everybody!
So I encourage people to vote yes to support the upcoming library levy, and donate to the campaign if possible. Actually, now that I think about it: if you’re interested in putting up a lawn sign in early September, give me a call at 541-434-4254!

The fact that people can check out more online resources and participate in virtual programming shows us how well the Eugene Public Library has pivoted to serve its community in a time of need. 
Isn’t it incredible! The Friends of the Library are doing it too. You know, they’ve run this huge book sale since 1976, and the revenue from that allows them to routinely give $100,000 to the Library. When it had to be canceled this year, we found ourselves sitting on more than 1000 packed boxes ready for the sale. So the Friends decided to do a bag sale instead. Stay tuned for more opportunities to order a bag of books based on whatever category you want – memoirs, fiction, cookbooks, sci-fi, etc. For $10 you get 10 books that they pick out and bundle for you. Then you drive over to their warehouse when it’s your scheduled time, pop your trunk and they put them in. While their August sale has passed, there will be another one in September! Visit their website for news about upcoming sales and ways to support the Library! 

It’s fun to think about bringing home a bundle of books and seeing what surprises they’ve picked out for you. Do you have a favorite book?
Always the murder mystery that I’m reading at the moment.

What’s on your bedside table right now?
Phillip Margolin’s Lost Lake – he’s the Portland attorney who stopped practicing and started writing mysteries.

What’s been your favorite “comfort read” book during the pandemic?
I’ve done nothing but comfort reading for years – mindless murder mysteries. 

Kindle or Paper?
If it’s not on paper it doesn’t exist.

How do you organize your books? Piles? By color? 
I don’t own any books. I borrow them all and take them back to Eugene Public Library or the library at Cascade Manor. Sometimes I borrow friends’ books. I stack them up in piles by my bedside – the ones I’ve read and the ones I haven’t read yet. 

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. What three authors do you invite?
Kate Wilhelm because she’s such a great writer. Bill Sullivan because he loves to talk. And probably John Sanford because I think he must be funny – his books certainly are. I wouldn’t invite someone like Poe. Don’t you think he’d be a drag?

Alec Chunn is a Youth Services Librarian at the Downtown branch of the Eugene Public Library. He is passionate about fostering a safe place for children to grow in the greater Eugene community. We recently caught up with Alec during a Zoom interview and learned about the myriad of resources available to children even during the pandemic.

Are you a native Eugenian? If not, where are you from, and what brought you here?

I’m not a native Eugenian. I’m actually from Southeast Washington and grew up in the tri-cities area. I ended up in Oregon after I went to Boston for graduate school at Simmons University. When I was in Boston, I really missed the Pacific Northwest. I started applying for jobs and ended up with an AmeriCorps position with the United Community Action Network in Roseburg. I served at the Southern Oregon Education Service District, where I spent time working with early intervention preschool, as well as the local library, leading sensory story time, which was an inclusive event for local children. We also brought book bags to early education students.

As my AmeriCorps term was coming to an end, I saw a job posting at the Eugene Public Library. Positions were opening up because of the levy funding that the library received in 2016. I started at the Bethel branch, but a lot of people started retiring a couple of years later and I was able to transfer to the youth services department at the Downtown branch.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Eugene?

There are so many good things about this city. When I was living in Southern Oregon, I would come to Eugene for concerts and more cultural experiences. I also really love the bike paths and ability to get most places by foot or bike.

I also find that there’s an undercurrent of whimsy in Eugene. You can find it anywhere, but I love that you can be walking around town and see a stump with a fairy house sitting on it, or a painted fire hydrant, or a new mural. I’m also very entertained by the slug queen pageant. It’s so silly and I go every year.

What sort of relationship did you have with the library throughout your childhood and adolescence?

This will come as a surprise, but I didn’t really have a relationship with my library at all. As a kid, we moved across the river, and my local library was really far away from our new home. But I do remember in 8th grade, we had a skip-day and my friends and I actually skipped class to go to the library! I didn’t have a library card so I got one and had my ID photo taken. Although I had been away for a long time, it was a good way to be reacquainted with the library.

I will say that I did have a really strong relationship with the local Barnes & Noble. It was cool to go to the mall when I was a teenager, so I always wandered through the stacks there and collected books. I used to really want to work in a bookstore, but I love the library now because you don’t actually have to sell anything to get people to read books.

For college, I went to Western Washington University, and because it was an education school, they had a great children’s library. I was studying Creative Writing and Theatre, and wanted to be a children’s writer, so I loved going there.

When did you start working at the library? What is your role?

I started working at the Eugene Public Library in June 2016, as  a branch librarian at the Bethel branch. In 2018, I transferred to Youth Services at the Downtown branch. Now I coordinate programming and create community partnerships, and I get to plan some really cool events, big and small in size. We’ve done Harry Potter book nights, and book groups for youth. I love doing both kinds of events.

Recently I took a temporary promotion, so now I’m a Youth Services Supervisor, which means I’m doing everything I was doing before in addition to supervising a few staff members.

What is your favorite part of working at the library?

My favorite part of working at the library is that there isn’t an obligation of anyone checking anything out. People can just come hang out and it’s a safe space. I have a serious love for books, and I love having conversations about our resources in circulation, especially with kids. I think the conversations kids have are fascinating and fresh, and they don’t have a filter. They don’t feel obligated to like the classics. They like what they like and aren’t ashamed of it. I love when you get to see a kid who builds this stack of books that they can barely carry and take it out the door with them. I also love when you see people reading to each other in the library. It’s very sweet.

I came into libraries for books, but what I’ve discovered I love the most is that there’s a sense of community that the library creates and builds. Helping kids feel safe, make friends, and helping parents find what they’re looking for are the best parts of my job.

What is your favorite memory of working at the library?

I’ll tell you about two!

The first is that I helped plan the Harry Potter book night, and myself and some others built a cardboard maze on the second floor for the event. Being a part of that was so much fun. My coworker, Mindie Marsh, mapped the whole thing but she deserves credit for her amazing math skills throughout the process. We pieced together all of these cardboard panels, and being able to look at that from the third floor balcony was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Secondly, I’ve been leading a book group for 9-12 year old children, and my favorite memory was when we were reading a book called The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. For the activity that went along with the book, we made zines. We just used folded up paper and made it into a book, and listened to punk music since that was the theme of the book. I even fake dyed my hair blue for the occasion. I had one kid who had been coming to the book group for a while who was usually really quiet, but at the end of this session, he came up to me and showed me five or six zines that he had made at home. For a while, I had a hard time figuring out how to reach him, but after this it was clear that although he was quiet, he just participated in a different way. This experience really helped me understand the kids I work with even better, and it’s so great to be able to foster an environment where kids can be creative. There’s a surprise factor with kids that’s so amazing. The things they come up with are incredible, and it’s pretty cool to place value on what they can make and hold it up and be proud of it.

What stands out for you about the Eugene Public Library?

I love the space so much. When I visited Eugene for the first time, I remember walking into the Downtown library and getting an informal tour from a children’s librarian. I was so dazzled by how big and beautiful the space is. I love all of the art, sculptures, and the rotunda. I remember leaving and being like, “I really want to work here.”

I also love my coworkers and the way we’re always trying to serve our communities. We try to figure out who isn’t being served, and then work to figure out how to do better. We also have a children’s display case where kids can bring in things they want to display. We’re able to make space for children to feel like they matter. We’ve had some bring in Lego displays, and we even had one kid make a display of photos of himself, which was funny. It’s so cool to see kids bring in people they love and say, “Things I made are here in the library!”

How have your days changed since the library closed due to COVID-19?

I won’t lie, it has been really hard to serve youth in this time. A lot of us in Youth Services love the conversations we have with kids, but now it feels like we’re communicating more with parents instead of children because we’ve been doing a lot of tele-services. It’s been challenging and a lot of creativity has been used to figure out how to serve kids in the community and continue supporting families.

This experience has helped me learn how to use different platforms for live-streaming and organize online reading events for kids. It has been an interesting change. We’ve also been going to summer food sites to bring books to kids for them to keep. We usually do that in the building as well, but it’s nice to reach the folks who may not come to the building. It’s great whether we’re going to schools or affordable housing units, and kids come running as if we’re the ice cream truck.

We can’t have the book group in person anymore, but now we’re doing it by mail. Kids can sign up and receive a box in the mail full of goodies, including the book being read. It’s really exciting to reach families in new ways outside of Zoom. Kids are Zoom-ed out, so bringing creative programming to the home is amazing.

What are you reading right now?

This is kind of interesting: I’m actually on the committee for the Caldecott Award. So I’m reading a lot of books that are in the running to win the award in January. I can’t reveal what they are, but it’s been fun to get these books in the mail lately.Other than that, I recently finished Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, which is a remix of Stamped from the Beginning by Kendi. While Stamped from the Beginning is for adult readers, Stamped goes through America’s racist past and present in a way that is readable for youth.

Eugene Public Library Foundation is proud to endorse the local option library levy ballot measure on the November 3, 2020 ballot.The 2015 levy shows a track record of success by meeting goals for additional hours and access, more programs and services, and more materials and technology. Renewal will ensure the Eugene Public Library continues to be a powerful free resource for everyone at a slightly lower property tax rate. People turn to libraries during challenging economic times. Funding from the levy will help our community recover together and support students’ success when they need it most. 

For more information and to join the campaign, visit

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. was completed in 1972 to replace the Central Library of Washington D.C.   The original building was designed by the German modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  However, the structure did not age well.  The dark interiors and design offered few inspiring spaces for reading or contemplation and discouraged community gathering.   Further, the building itself needed repairs and environmental upgrades.  

The library closed in March 2017 for much needed upgrades and the beautifully renovated space is set to reopen in fall 2020.  In the interior, the renovations include a redesigned entryway with publicly commissioned art, a large auditorium and conference center, a redesigned reading room, and a workspace for artists.  Better fixtures, increased light, and comfortable furniture make the library cozier and more inviting.  The D.C. Public Library intends to prioritize employing immigrants, veterans, disconnected youth, people of color, and returning citizens in the new library café and other spaces.   On the exterior, some brick walls have been replaced by glass and a garden pavilion. 

Inside the library, maker spaces offer sewing machines and a tool-rental library.  The Washingtoniana Collection includes books, newspaper archives, maps, census records, and oral histories related to the city’s history.   The library also has a Black Studies Center established in 1972 to collect documents related to African American Culture. 

The library’s reopening this fall has been dampened by the COVID pandemic and the planned reopening celebration has been cancelled.  However, the bright and inspiring new library offers the city’s residents hope for the future and a space to gather and learn once we are all able to do so again safely.

You have likely heard of the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of Black American literature, journalism, activism, and art that rose alongside other modernist artistic movements in the US and Europe beginning in the 1920s. The movement included luminaries such as W. E. B. DuBois, Arna Bontemps, and Jessie Redmon Fauset; poets such as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen; visual artists including Aaron Douglas; and renaissance humans such as Zora Neale Hurston and Claude McKay. But as with any movement, the Harlem Renaissance included supporters, champions, patrons, and groupies, many of them forgotten by history. In “The Librarian at the Nexus of the Harlem Renaissance,” Cara Giaimo overviews one such supporter, New York Public Library librarian Regina Anderson. Through her work, first at the 135th St. branch in Harlem and later at other locations, Anderson met and supported many of the top creators and thinkers of the movement, giving them a space to write, a platform to speak, or a couch to surf on. Her story is well worth reading and remembering.

Join the Imagination Library Advisory Board and Foundation in celebrating the 6th birthday of the Imagination Library with our Virtual Imagination Library Luncheon on Thursday, September 24th at 11:45am. Tickets are on sale now and the event will feature local authors Bob Welch and Andre Royal Senior. Be inspired and help us raise funds for the Imagination Library of Eugene! 

It’s time for our fourth-annual Imagination Library photo challenge! To enter, simply fill out this form by submitting contact information, photos of your reader, and a short paragraph on what the Imagination Library has meant to you. Know someone who participated in the Imagination Library of Eugene? Forward this newsletter to them!

In news that will likely surprise no one, your Eugene Public Library Foundation board and staff members are book people. Here is a snapshot of the book some of us are into right now.

Hans McKnight, Board Member
Thunder over the Ochoco: Distant Thunder (Volume II) by Gale Ontko
This is a historical account of Eastern Oregon, picking up at the end of the Trappers era in Oregon and as the first wagon trains started to emerge into Oregon. It’s an interesting account focusing on the Indian experience as much as the first settlers, and also talks about landmarks and locations very familiar to anyone who has spent much time east of the Cascades. 

Ellen Todras, Board President
I just finished Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout. She is such a keen observer of human behavior, loss, and rediscovery. Loved this novel, as I have all of her books. Got it through Library2Go, thanks to the Eugene Public Library!

Lisa Rubenstein Calevi, Board Member
I recently enjoyed this gem of a novel, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. It offers nuanced musings on how aspects of an individual’s lived experience – a life lived – embed differently in the memories of others with whom his life intersects. 

Matt Keating, Board MemberMe and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. Our entire board at Lane Community College committed to read Saad’s work and do an introspective examination of the ways in which we unknowingly hold up archaic and damaging institutions founded on and perpetuating racism.

Renee Buchanan, Board Member
I recently finished , Board MemberThe Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey. I don’t play tennis, and run away from most moving spheres, but this book is really about learning how to stop the noise of the voice in your head that is constantly telling you that you are doing things wrong, and to learn to focus and be present. Can you believe this nearly 50 year old book is still in print? That in itself is a recommendation.

Ashleigh Meier, Board Member
I’ve recently really enjoyed The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. This is an emotional story filled with themes of race, identity, and class. I found it incredibly thought-provoking and poignant. I read it back-to-back with her other novel, The Mothers, which was also phenomenal.

Marta Powers, Board Co-TreasurerJust finished Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson about a young woman, going nowhere fast, who takes on the task of taking care of twins that catch on fire. Yes, catch on fire. It doesn’t hurt them but burns their clothes and surroundings. A little sophomoric but fun and heartwarming.

Allison Howard, Board Co-Treasurer
I am reading The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is his first historical fiction novel and has a fantasy component. I don’t normally gravitate toward magical realism, but the way Coates weaves this into the overall story is very beautiful. You can tell he did a great deal of research on an important story to tell.

Sarah Stoeckl, Board Member
I recently read Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas. This book is a memoir within a collection of essays and is a smart and funny and lovely exploration of being gay, Black, Christian, and human in America 2020. I laughed. I cried. I was here for it.

Sarah Coates, Board Member
I just finished Kevin Kwan’s new book, Sex and Vanity. It was a fantastic book for tapping into that vacation, “beach read” feel from home. It brought the same upbeat, whimsical tone as Crazy Rich Asians while introducing a fascinating new set of characters to root for (and against, as the case may be). 

In Conversation with Experts and Enthusiasts
2nd Friday of each month from 12-1pm

Join the Foundation and a variety of guest speakers for a new monthly event series.  We’ll host virtual lunch break conversations on a variety of topics of local interest connected to the ever delightful quest for knowledge and inspiration.

The first monthly event in the series will be on Friday, September 11, 2020 at 12pm, and will feature Dr. Lisa Price, a professor of anthropology at Oregon State University, presenting on The Biological and Cultural Construction of Race. Dr. Price will lecture briefly, participate in a Q&A, and share resources for further reading as we gather and engage with each other.

To register and read about the speaker series, please visit our event page. 

Virtual Imagination Library Luncheon
Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 11:45am

Tickets are on sale now and celebrating the 6th birthday of the Imagination Library will feature local authors Bob Welch and Andre Royal Senior. Be inspired and help us raise funds for the Imagination Library of Eugene!

The Bookish Brain Trivia Night: Round 3
Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 6pm

It’s another battle of knowledge! We’re hosting the next Bookish Brain Trivia Night the week before Halloween. Show off your costumes, share your wide-ranging knowledge, and raise funds for the Eugene Public Library while competing for prizes (and bragging rights). Join as a team of 4-6 people, or as an individual to be matched to a team. Buy your tickets before it sells out!

We invite our readers to submit pictures of libraries and literary points of interest from around the world. With traveling limitations now, we look forward to sharing more of these special visits our readers have shared from past adventures. If you would like to submit a library highlight from your travels, please send to

Cathy Briner at Puhoi Library in Puhoi, New Zealand
Submitted by Cathy Briner

I lived on the Apache Reservation in San Carlos, Arizona for two years (1970-72). I was not a librarian at that time, however, I volunteered at the public library in the nearest town. It was there I learned of Arizona’s effective county library system. I tapped into that system and over a period of a few months secured a building from the tribe and installed a permanent collection through grants and county funding.  From San Carlos I went to Philadelphia where I attended Drexel University and received a M.L.S. 

I visited the San Carlos library in February 2020. It is in a larger space today and an integral part of the community, staffed by members of and funded by the tribe. 
Submitted by Nicola Maxwell

The following people have recently been recognized by our donors with a gift in their name to the EPLF. We are grateful for our donors’ thoughtful and generous support.

In Honor of  
Michael Nohrenberg
Ellen Todras
Friends of the Eugene Public Library

In Memory of
Dr. Maurice Holland
Katherine A. Clawson
Charles Stephens