Between the Shelves Newsletter: November 2020

Traveler’s Spotlight: We invite our readers to submit pictures of libraries and literary points of interest from around the world (or Eugene). 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 info@eplfoundation.org.

Follow us on social media for Foundation and Library news, literary laughs, and more. 

Fall Imagination Library Newsletter: October 2020

Photo of parents with toddler son reading a book


Last month, we gathered virtually to be inspired and raise funds for the Imagination Library at our 6th annual “luncheon.” Together, we raised $36,514!

Thank you for celebrating the program with our featured speakers Bob Welch, Andre Royal, Shelley Smolnisky, Marlene Iverson, and Meagan and Easton (our Imagination Library family)! Click on these names to view their videos from the event. 

Founded by Dolly and funded 100% locally by donors like you, the program is always free for all participants. This fall we’ll continue to raise awareness of the program, and will focus on outreach and engagement of bilingual English/Spanish families. 

In this newsletter: 
A Note from Our Advisory Board Chairs
Family Spotlight: Pax, Troy, and Ashley
Donor Spotlight: Cindy Nelson 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Upcoming Activities

In past newsletters, we’ve talked about all the benefits of the Imagination Library. We’d like to discuss one more in this newsletter. As first-grade teachers, we used to assess “concept of print” or “book awareness” skills. These are skills that are essential before a child can get down to the “nitty gritty” of reading. 

Children acquire these skills through shared reading in early childhood. Seeing books that are different sizes and with different fonts, seeing you hold a book correctly, watching you turn the pages until you get to the end and seeing you point to words is the way children acquire these essential skills. You are giving them the skills they need to be successful readers just by reading to them. 

Book Awareness Skills developed in early literacy

• Does a child understand that print relays a message? 
• Does a child hold a book the right way up? 
• Can they point to the front cover? Back cover? 
• Can they tell you the title of the story or point to it?
• Can they tell you what the story is about? 
• Do they start at the beginning of the book and know how to turn the pages until they reach the end?
• Do they understand that one starts reading on the left side of the page and moves to the right? 
• Do they have the concept of first, middle, and end? Can they point to a word? 
• Do they know that words are separated by spaces?

Marlene & Shelley
Imagination Library of Eugene Advisory Board Co-Chairs
(Pictured above at their high school reunion in 2019.)

Pax is turning four next month, and he was enrolled in the Imagination Library the month he was born. Pax’s favorite part of the Imagination Library is getting the books in the mail, especially with his name on it. He always recognizes Imagination Library books because of Dolly’s picture on the inside. Here’s a little more about Pax and his parents, Troy and Ashley. 

How long have you participated in the Imagination Library? Pax is 3 years and 8 months so I signed him up the month he was born. We got the first book just a few months after he was born. After I heard about it I signed up right away. We didn’t really even experience a delay in getting his first book – it came really quickly.

What did your son like the most about the Imagination Library? I think he loves getting stuff in the mail and especially anything that arrives for him with his name on it. He loves to check mail with his daddy and enjoys all the books he gets. He always recognizes which of his books are Imagination Library books because of Dolly’s picture on the inside. He just loves these books.

What did you enjoy most about the Imagination Library? I love that it adds to our existing library. It’s a good mix of classic books you’ve heard of and ones that are not on your radar. You don’t really know what to expect from a free program but the quality of writing and illustrations is always really great. I’ve been impressed by the diversity in the books; it’s very noticeable and unusual.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed myself is the books arriving in the mail. I don’t even have to think about it and the best part is that the books tend to arrive when I am least expecting it and have kind of forgotten about them. It’s like a little surprise each month.

What would you like people to know about participating in the Imagination Library? I want everyone to know that it’s available and free. There’s no reason not to sign up – I tell everyone I know about it. Just to be able to add free books to our collection every month is such an exciting thing. It’s a treat. I know Pax has really enjoyed it. 

On the other side, the more practical side, I think it’s interesting that it doesn’t take that much to support a kid being in the program from 0-5. The fundraising book cost is so low, it’s such an easy program to support.

What would you do when the books would arrive each month? Usually Troy, his dad, takes him out to the mailbox every day because he likes checking the mail to see if he got anything. When he gets a book, we unwrap it right away and tuck the book away on the stairs and wait to read it together at bedtime. Sometimes he’s so excited to read it we don’t wait until bedtime, but most of the time that’s our little special ritual.

What do you think are the benefits of your family reading together? When we share stories we can see how Pax is so creative and a storyteller in his own life and we all get to be creative together. I think it’s so important just being physically close and creating space for quiet time and calmness right before bed. His imagination is just kind of off the charts and I think that really comes from our storytime at night

How did you feel about the book selections? Great! Honestly, in almost four years of receiving a book every month  the quality of the books has been excellent. So many amazing books in four years. My inclination as a parent would be to buy classics generally. The bilingual books – I always love those. The books were always so appropriate for his age. 

Are there any books that really stood out to you? One that’s really a favorite is Goodnight Gorilla. It was really at the beginning of language development, and its story that has no actual words. So I would make up the story since it had no words and I could really see how he was starting to associate the story I made up with the images in the book. When I would get to the part with the elephant, he would pick up his stuffed elephant. He loves I Hear a Pickle there’s just been so many other great books that he loves. He gets attached to them as they come and go. 

When we went on vacation a little while ago, I brought three of Pax’s favorite books which were all Imagination Library books. They got left at the airport and I, of course, had to replace them since they were his favorites. I bought all three of them off of Amazon and in total it cost about $50 to replace them. It really illustrated the quality of the books and what a great deal this program really is.

I want everyone to know that it’s available and free. There’s no reason not to sign up – I tell everyone I know about it.– Ashley

Cindy Nelson is a member of the Imagination Library Advisory Board, and an educator and advocate for early literacy. 

Becoming a member of the Imagination Library Board felt like going back to my roots. I have taught preschool and kindergarten and later became a family literacy specialist. While working for a national family literacy organization, I learned about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. 

In 1995 the Dollywood Foundation launched Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to serve her home county and in 2000 they began a national replication effort. I became aware of the Imagination Library in 2002 when the Dollywood Foundation added the Native American community. The organization I worked for provided family literacy services through the Bureau of Indian Education and we were able offer IL services to enrolled children. In the years that followed the IL expanded throughout the US and later to many other countries. As of this fall, over 145 million books have been gifted to young readers. They also offer audio and books in Braille. (imaginationlibrary.com)

Dolly Parton wanted to encourage a love of reading for the youngest among us. She created the IL as a tribute to her father. “Before he passed away, my Daddy told me that the IL was probably the most important thing I had ever done. He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all of his dreams.” 

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library has been providing books for children birth to 5 in the Eugene community for the past six years. I feel it is a privilege to be a part of the Imagination Library Advisory Board and know that young children are learning the love of reading.

Since welcoming so many new people to the family of Imagination Library supporters at the virtual luncheon, we wanted to share some of the frequently asked questions about the program!

Ranging from the number of children joining the program each month (averaging 141) to the annual cost of the program (approximately $90,000), these questions cover the program from A to Z! 

One of our favorite questions:

How can I get involved with the Imagination Library Advisory Board? 
We are looking for Advisory Board members to support our volunteer efforts to fundraise, recruit new children, build partnerships, and spread the word about the program. If you are interested in joining the Imagination Library Advisory Board,  please email reed@eplfoundation.org.

Click here for the FAQ! 

Please let us know if you have any other questions about the program or how to get involved! 

Click the image for a video announcement from Dolly about her Imagination Library documentary, “The Library That Dolly Built: Celebrating the People Who Made Dolly’s Dream Come True,” that will premiere on December 9, at 4 p.m. PST exclusively on Facebook.

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

Join the Foundation and a variety of guest speakers for a new virtual monthly event series via Zoom.  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 next monthly event in the series will be on Friday, November 13th at 12pm, and will feature Cheryl Hartup, Curator of Academic Programs and Latin American and Caribbean Art at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and UO student + JSMA intern Wendy Echeverría García as they discuss Transcultural Bridges and Political Activism: Mexico and the Graphic Arts, 1929-1956.

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

The Bookish Brain Virtual Trivia Night: Round 3
Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 6pm
We’re hosting the next Bookish Brain Trivia Night this weekend on Zoom. 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!

The devastation of the Holiday Farm Fire has affected an entire community of our neighbors and friends in Blue River and surrounding areas. The O’Brien Memorial Library and its collection was destroyed in the fire. The volunteer library had been a beacon in Blue River for nearly 100 years and its Board of Directors is making plans for a new library for their community. 

100% of funds given through the trivia night link and the proceeds from this trivia night will be donated to the O’Brien Memorial Library .

Sign up for the Imagination Library today and receive a free book delivered to your home until your reader turns five. The first book arrives in 6-8 weeks and then after, enjoy monthly books delivered to your home. For more information on the Imagination Library of Eugene, please visit our website.

Eugene Public Library Foundation is proud to endorse the local option library levy ballot measure on the November 3, 2020 ballot.Renewal will ensure the Eugene Public Library continues to be a powerful free resource for everyone without raising taxes. 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 librariesforeveryonevoteyes.org.

Follow us on social media for Foundation and Library news, literary laughs, and more. 

The Imagination Library of Eugene is a partnership between the Eugene Public Library and the Eugene Public Library Foundation. Books are curated and shipped by the Dollywood Foundation. Founded by Dolly Parton and funded by donors like you through gifts to the Eugene Public Library Foundation, this program has a profound impact on early childhood literacy locally.

Summer Imagination Library Newsletter: July 2020

As teachers, we read to the students in our classroom every day. Sometimes it was a book of poems, sometimes it was a non-fiction book on a topic we were studying in class and other times it was a fiction book with amazing characters, an interesting plot or vivid language that captivated our students. We read because we knew the benefits it provided for the children in our class.

We read for the same reasons that you read to your children:

  • We read for the sheer joy of reading. The read aloud was one of our favorite times of the day.
  • We could build community with our class, relating a shared story to our learning and our lives.
  • We could demonstrate expressive reading; children need to hear it to do it.
  • We were showing kids how to read. We were modeling going back and rereading when something didn’t make sense.
  • We were offering different perspectives. Books introduce children to a variety of characters, people and places. They also offer a mirror for kids to read about someone who looks like them or is experiencing a similar situation or problem.
  • We read to “bless” a book. By reading aloud, we tell children that this book is worth reading.

We know that through the Imagination Library books your child receives that the times you read with your child have also become your favorite time of the day.

These tips are from Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook. He has a brochure entitled Ten Facts Parents Should Know About Reading that is available for free from the IL website.

Marlene & Shelley
Imagination Library of Eugene Advisory Board Co-Chairs
(Pictured above at their high school reunion in 2019.)

Over the last several months, parents have been juggling their already hectic lives with the new challenges faced during the shelter-in-place orders.  As the parent of a little one who just turned 4 this summer, I relate to this struggle to find a new normal in the balance of work, parenting, and being active in our community. Reading our Imagination Library books has given my son and me a time to pause and have a quiet moment where we are focused on each other and the story in front of us. As we turn the pages, I often think how I need this moment together just as much as he does. 

Having the books delivered directly to our mailbox each month has made life a little easier and a lot more joyful. Working to support the Imagination Library Advisory Board in raising funds for the program is incredibly meaningful as I think of how we help other families across our city access books where and when they need them the most. 

In community,


Reed Davaz McGowan
Executive Director, Eugene Public Library Foundation

If you attended the 2019 Imagination Library Luncheon, you may remember Brooke Mittermann and her two children, Cora and Otto, who attended as our Imagination Library family honored guests. While little Otto hid under her skirt, Brooke read an essay about the Imagination Library and its impact on her family. We followed up with Brooke for this issue’s family spotlight.

What would you like people to know about participating in the Imagination Library?
Just do it! It’s so positive. Even through the pandemic, Dollywood has been putting out these reading videos. She read Llama Llama Red Pajama in these fancy pajamas from her bed and it was so sweet. They also had these PDF activity sheets that I can just print out, put on a video, and have this great resource for my kids. I have been pretty much homeschooling while working from home and trying to come up with lesson plans and it’s been so nice having things like this that are almost a lesson plan themselves.

Excerpt from Brooke’s essayI’ve found, through the books we have received, that our participation in the Imagination Library has also fostered love, connection, kindness, and acceptance. The high quality, age-appropriate books that we receive through the Imagination Library have helped our family prepare for new experiences and learn new things, and better understand and work through our feelings. 

What do you think are the benefits of your family reading together? 
There’s so many. It’s intimate. You get to be close to your kids and share a story and experience. There’s so many things you can do with books. You can teach counting or how to think about emotions of characters. It feels like it’s an easier way to relate to a child than sitting across from them and asking them a direct question. You can really find out the same things in a better way by relating to a character in a book they’ve read.

How long have you participated in the Imagination Library? How did you find out about it?
Well, we started in the program about four years ago when my daughter, Cora, was about two, which was right about when my son, Otto, was born. I found out about it when a friend who had kids the same age sent me a text and told me it was an amazing program, so I signed up.

What do you enjoy most about the Imagination Library?
I’ve loved getting books in the mail and, often, they’re books that I wouldn’t have necessarily sought to purchase or pick out. The selection is maybe even more thoughtful than I could do on my own. It really feels like a community support in the way that it helps provide outside perspectives through the book selection. 

And of course, again those lessons and emotions in these books are so valuable. They’ve really helped when we’ve gone through difficult situations as a family – like divorce – we can go back to these really sweet thoughts and lessons from these books. They’re really helped us navigate some difficult times by having characters and stories to reference.

What did your kids like the most about the Imagination Library?
They love getting books in mail and seeing their own names on the books. The books themselves touch on such important things for kids their age, like feelings and emotions. We have our own little library at home and they tend to grab Imagination Library books more often in that collection than other books.

What would you do when the books would arrive each month? 
If the kids are with me, we get the mail together. If they’re with their dad, I would put the books out on the coffee table. I keep a really tidy house, so anything sitting out is a big deal, so they’ll usually come home and immediately notice the new books and be so excited to read them together.

How did you feel about the book selections? 
I do like the bilingual books, like Jake at Gymnastics. The kids really like it and it’s fun to try to get them to pronounce words that are not in English. They get a little Spanish at their daycare, so it’s nice for them to see words that they are already familiar with and get to practice at home.

Are there any books that really stood out to you?
Peace is an Offering is so sweet. My No, No, No Day is really great and has such a good message. All kids act out, and it teaches them that it’s okay to feel bad or have a bad day and they are still loved and tomorrow can be a better day. King Jack and the Dragons is a really sweet book about how kids get in their own world and parents are like the punctuation to them in a way. I really loved that book and all the fun words in it and the characters. It’s one of my kids’ favorites.

Anything else?
Dolly Parton is just amazing. I think it’s been a really great way to foster this love of reading in our home. We’re not exactly going to the library a lot in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s been nice that we’re still getting books that, some of them, are outside of what I would pick. I just really appreciate this program and what it’s done for my family. I tell so many people about this program and how great it is. It’s been so great for my babes.

Save the date for our sixth-annual Imagination Library fundraiser Thursday, September 24th.  Celebrate this wonderful program that has brought more than 200,000 books to children in the Eugene community with us! 

For the past 6 years, supporters of the Imagination Library of Eugene have gathered to share lunch and the joy of children’s literacy. This fall, we are planning a “reimagined,” virtual Imagination Library fundraiser. While won’t be able to share a meal and celebrate together in person, the purpose will be the same: to support a vital program that engages families through early literacy. Each year, the event raises nearly half the cost of bringing the Imagination Library to Eugene. The need is even greater than ever, and we need our community to join us. 

We are pleased to announce our speakers who will showcase the inspirational world of children’s literacy. 

Our host, Bob Welch, is a household name in Eugene. Bob is a local speaker, author, award-winning columnist and writing teacher who has served as an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Oregon in Eugene and has written more than 20 books. With two children and 5 grandchildren, children’s literacy has been important in his life. 

Featured speaker, Andre Royal, recently published his first children’s book, The Hippo-Critic, and its follow up Little Big Bear. which were illustrated by his son, Andre Royal Junior. The books center on experiences from Andre’s life and are presented in a format that is a hybrid comic  and coloring book. 

We are so excited to have these two local authors join us in supporting the Imagination Library of Eugene!

We recently caught up with Sharon Posner, longtime Imagination Library of Eugene supporter and Advisory Board member.



Sharon, you were there at the beginning. Can you tell us how the Imagination Library came to Eugene?
Eugene’s Imagination Library will be six years old in September. Back in 2014, when it began, I was the president of the Eugene Public Library Foundation. Doug Barber, a member of the Foundation Board, had watched a segment about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library on 60 Minutes. He came to the Board and proposed that it sponsor the Imagination Library in Eugene. 

It took a while as the Board considered it. It would be a major responsibility and commitment. There was a concern about the Foundation’s primary commitment to the Library itself. The Library Services Director at the time, Connie Bennett, had to buy into the idea too. The Library would have to commit staff time to administer the enlistment of participants and the sending out of the books every month. Connie was enthusiastic and agreed to help

How do you see the Imagination Library progressing now in Eugene?
When the need has arisen, people have come to provide leadership. It is clear to many how valuable this program is.

The Eugene program has been inspirational to constituencies in other parts of Lane County as well. Springfield now has its own program, as does Lowell. And United Way sponsors the Imagination Library to rural residents of Lane County. Recently, there has been outreach and communication among all the groups in Lane County.

How has the Imagination Library fulfilled its potential in Eugene?
It’s really rewarding when you read, or hear, what families have to say about the impact the program has had on people’s lives. And watching the growth of the program over the past 6 years has helped me to appreciate donors who become sustaining (monthly) donors. That is so important for our program!

With recent protests and renewed public outcry for civil rights and equal justice, whether in the form of revising or reimagining our social institutions, children are bound to pick up on the general atmosphere of change and to have questions.  Parents can reassure and encourage young ones by reading books to them with content and illustrations that include people and children of all races and backgrounds. 

The most effective way to fight racism is to start early and for parents to model learning about other people as a life-long quest. Books foster respect and empathy.  The Eugene Public Library has put together a list of recommendations for children’s Black Lives Matter books for those wanting to read more. 

The Imagination Library has also partnered with American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. to make many of the books, available in braille and audio to increase accessibility. Visit APH.org and learn more about how to download these free children’s audio books online and obtain free in braille.

Imagination Library Photo Challenge – 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 and we will be in touch with any next steps. The lucky winner will receive a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader and be welcomed as an honored guest at the Imagination Library virtual event on September 24. Know someone who participated in the Imagination Library of Eugene? Forward this newsletter to them!

Trivia Night Round 2 -Join our virtual trivia night on Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 6pm – Now shorter and with easier technology! 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. Invite your friends, sign up, and have fun! The event will also have a live feed for people to watch, cheer, and support the Foundation. Get your tickets here! 

Monthly Event Series: In Conversation
Join the Foundation and a variety of guest speakers for lunch break conversations on the second Friday of each month from 12-1pm. We’ll gather virtually to discuss a variety of topics of local interest that are connected to the ever delightful quest for knowledge.

The first monthly event in the series will be on Friday, September 11, 2020 at 12pm. Feel free to join early to get to meet other participants. More details to be announced soon! 

The Library That Dolly Built – Week of Sept. 21 – “The Library That Dolly Built” is a feature-length documentary focusing on the creation of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The film is currently set to premiere in fall 2020, celebrating Dolly’s journey and the partnerships she made along the way to build the Imagination Library.

The Imagination Library Celebration – Sept. 24 – Save the date for our sixth-annual Imagination Library fundraiser on the last Thursday of September. Celebrate this wonderful program that has brought more than 220,000 books to children in the Eugene community with us! 

Buy tickets here!

Sign up for the Imagination Library today and receive a free book delivered to your home until your reader turns five. The first book arrives in 6-8 weeks and then after, enjoy monthly books delivered to your home. For more information on the Imagination Library of Eugene, please visit our website.

On Monday, July 27, 2020 at 5:30pm, Will O’Hearn, Library Services Director, will bring draft resolutions for the levy renewal for the November 2020 ballot to the Eugene City Council at their work session. During this meeting, the City Council will determine whether or not the levy renewal will go forward for the November ballot.

It is critical to show community support for the Library levy’s option to maintain the existing rate leading up to this meeting so that the Library can focus on maintaining services and supporting our community long term recovery from COVID-19. Please click here to read more about how you can contact City Council and support the Eugene Public Library.

Follow us on social media for Foundation and Library news, literary laughs, and more. 

The Imagination Library of Eugene is a partnership between the Eugene Public Library and the Eugene Public Library Foundation. Books are curated and shipped by the Dollywood Foundation. Founded by Dolly Parton and funded by donors like you through gifts to the Eugene Public Library Foundation, this program has a profound impact on early childhood literacy locally.

Film Screening: The Library That Dolly Built (4/2)

This event has been postponed. Around the country on April 2, audiences will get the chance to see Dolly Parton’s new film, “The Library That Dolly Built.” This feature-length documentary covers the history, impact and future of America’s largest non-governmental children’s literacy program, Imagination Library, which builds children’s home libraries. Check United Way’s Facebook page next week to see which theaters will be showing the film.