Winter 2020: Between the Shelves

Welcome to the winter 2020 issue of the Eugene Public Library Foundation newsletter! We are delighted to introduce our newsletter readers to Reed Davaz McGowan, the Foundation’s new Executive Director. Reed is a local Eugenean who returned; please look for her greeting in this issue of the newsletter. And if you are in the library, please drop in to say hello at the Foundation office, where Reed and our Administrative Coordinator Madison Wilson work wonders.

Speaking of wonders, our annual fundraiser, Booked for the Evening, is sure to be a wonderful experience. Our theme this year is The Library: Our Window onto the World. What a resource the library is—opening windows to knowledge, exploration, and adventure!

Every year at Booked for the Evening, the Foundation focuses on raising funds for a specific need. This year, we are initiating a 3-year pilot project to fund library cards for all children attending public schools in Eugene. For many living in unincorporated areas, the cost of accessing the resources and programming the Eugene Public Library offers is prohibitive. This unequal access can be as personal as a next-door neighbor or school friend who is able to use the library, while your child cannot. 

Children with access to the programming, books, and other resources the library offers develop a lifelong love of literacy; are exposed to music, authors, and cultural events; can learn to sew and do other hands-on projects; and meet children from all corners of the city and from all walks of life in a safe, nurturing setting. Our goal is to open this access to all school-age children in Eugene by raising funds to cover the costs of library cards for all children attending public schools in Eugene, for the next three years.

I encourage you to peruse the newsletter even further. Read the delightful interviews of our library staff and Foundation donor. Our Libraries of the World section focuses on The Mariano Moreno National Library of the Argentine Republic. And we’ve included an addendum to this section as of this issue. Thanks to Nancy Nathanson, who sent us pictures of two libraries that she visited, we have added an opportunity for other readers to share library pictures via our newsletter.

Wishing you a beautiful spring,
Ellen Todras
President

As I finish up my first month at the Foundation, I am filled with excitement and appreciation from being so welcomed by our Library’s community. Moving from Eugene to Philadelphia to the Bay Area and back again, it feels like a welcome home too. I have a lifelong connection to the Eugene Public Library and am honored to support its role within our community as a center of knowledge and sanctuary for all.

When I was 4 years old, I received my very own library card at the Downtown Branch of 13th & Olive and felt my first senses of both freedom and responsibility. From that point forward, I spent countless hours selecting the perfect books to bring home and explore their stories. With my son now having his own first library card, the Library is a special place for us to share together. 

It is a special place for everyone. Each day that I come into the Library, I am astonished by how many people use the Library and how our donors are incredibly active users of the Library too. There were over 1.1 million visits to the Library last year! 

To share a little more about my background, before joining the Foundation, I was the executive director of Youth Art Exchange, an organization focused on youth arts education and place making in San Francisco. Prior to that, I led the Philadelphia-based Norris Square Neighborhood Project, a cultural education center embedded within the Latinx community of North Philadelphia. I am also a proud alumna of 4J and the University of Oregon. These experiences have inspired my dedication to equity and inclusion that will be intrinsic to my work with the Foundation. 

I welcome people to stop by the Foundation’s office on the 3rd floor of the Downtown Branch and join in our celebration at Booked for the Evening in April. I look forward to meeting you!

– Reed Davaz McGowan

Currently reading: The Sixth Man by Andre Iguodala 
Pictured above: Reed with her son at the Sheldon Branch Library Family Night

Booked for the Evening is a celebration not to be missed! Please join us at Valley River Inn at 6pm on Saturday, April 4, 2020 for an evening of food and drink to support the Eugene Public Library Foundation and our initiative to increase Library access for public school children in Eugene.

Booked for the Evening will feature Honorary Chair Mayor Lucy Vinis, silent and live auctions, performances, activities led by the Eugene Public Library (like the green screen photography pictured here!), and a look into The Library: Our Window onto the WorldLearn more about Booked here.

We would like to thank our sponsors:Lane Forest ProductsMoxie Event PlanningPowers Howard Quimby LLPHershner Hunter LLPGoodwill Industries, Alex & Clare VonderHaar, Summit BankColumbia BankEugene Coin & JewelryRobertson Sherwood Architects, and Roehl & Yi Investment Advisors. If you would like to sponsor Booked for the Evening, please contact the Foundation at (541) 338-7018. 


Giving That Inspires introduces you to a Eugene Public Library Foundation supporter. This month’s profile features Kathryn Weit. Kathryn served as a board member of EPLF from 2016-2019, working on the outreach committee. She has also served on the Board of the Imagination Library

Are you a native Oregonian? If not, what brought you here?
I’m from Wisconsin. My ex-husband was part of Legal Aid Services and we came here from DC in 1974. When we got to Portland, I thought “take me back to DC” but I got a job as a reading specialist at Jefferson High School and eventually worked my way into the community. I’d always worked in low income and very diverse schools prior to that. I moved to Eugene in 2000 when my daughter graduated from high school. I loved Portland but my sister was down here, as was the man who eventually became my second husband. I have an older son with a disability and the services were also much better in Eugene.

What kind of library did you grow up with?
Well, my family lived in one place in the winter and one place in the summer. My father was a canner. So we moved from the town of Portage, Wisconsin, to Pardeeville, north of Madison, in the summer.  These places had two very different libraries and I spent a lot of time in both. I loved to read. The Portage library was across from school – just about every day after school I went there. I spent many summers at the Pardeeville library; I can still kind of remember the smell and the cold linoleum since we never wore shoes inside the library. I remember that it just was a wonderful place to spend a hot summer day. Since I moved away from my school friends each summer, I spent a lot of time there (even working there during high school). I sure remember the funny old librarian there too. She was the type who wouldn’t let you check out a book like The Carpetbaggers (Harold Robbins, 1961) unless you were 30 years old or married. She was a tough old bird, about 5 feet tall, bent over, knew everybody in town, just a real character. Now it’s a regular library, with computers and lots of books readily available.

Sounds like you have some vivid memories of the Pardeeville Library.
I do, and probably also because there was a real family connection. The library was privately endowed, and part of the criteria of the endowment Trust was that no Catholic could ever check out books or serve on the board.  My grandfather tried to break the Trust and was attacked by the Ku Klux Klan as a result! We actually have clippings from the Madison newspaper reporting on his effort to get Catholics equal access to the library and the ensuing attack (and we’re not Catholic). My father became part of the library board in the late 1970s. At the time, the library wanted to join the state system so my father found an attorney and a judge and they broke the Trust since the criteria of the Trust, with its discriminating clause, would have prevented the library from being part of the larger state system. Anyway that’s the library that was dearest to my heart… it was just this very funny place with a long family history. 

Sounds like social justice runs in your family. 

Social justice issues are a big part of my life. Right out of college, in 1969 I did AmeriCorps VISTA [a national service program designed to alleviate poverty, sometimes referred to as the domestic Peace Corps] in a Latino and African American community in Milwaukee. Then I went to graduate school and became a reading specialist – first in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and then in Arlington, VA. At the time (around 1971), the American Nazi Party had their headquarters in Arlington and our school had some fairly significant racial tensions. The party had a white power hotline where you could leave a message, and complaints about our school were often left there—how black kids were doing this, and foreigners doing that. One day someone noticed that some members of this party were in cars circling the school, with guns hanging out the windows. 

When I moved to Portland, my son was born with a significant disability. So my trajectory changed and I became a disability lobbyist in the capital.

What kinds of legislation are you most proud of having had an impact on?

Legislation to support families caring for kids with disabilities in their home, funding for family support and funding for early intervention services. I was involved in several lawsuits concerning the Fairview Training Center – a big institution in Oregon for people with intellectual disabilities. Today, the best practice is of course that people with disabilities live in the communities where their families are [as opposed to being institutionalized] and have support in their own community.

This sounds like much more than a job.

Yes it was. I was part of one of the first Mothers from Hell (MFH2) groups. The groups are called that because we were hell-bent on getting justice and funding support for our children. Social justice issues are what attracted me to the Imagination Library too. For example, I think it’s a real important effort that the Imagination Library is getting kids from Head Start enrolled and receiving those books.

Why do you give to the EPLF?

If you care about social justice issues, the library has to be a major focus. And this is such an incredible library! One of the first things I learned about the Eugene Public Library was about a young Native American woman that we were already familiar with – she had been homeless and been staying with some people we knew – and she was going to the library to use the sewing machine. This is a library that is just such a gift to our community.

I made a donation last year. Then my brother-in-law Maurice Holland [former Dean and Professor Emeritus of the UO School of Law] died. Someone had told me about a saying: “When a person dies, a library burns.” He was so knowledgeable, and had so many stories—well,  I thought that comment was a really appropriate one. So we thought the Library Foundation would be a wonderful place for people to make donations to in his name. 

How do you characterize the strengths of the library?

The incredible diversity – the books, the other resources, the genuinely caring staff who sometimes deal with complicated people. In these political times, it becomes more and more important to have a library – and the way we have one, with speakers, services and of course the books. 

What books are on your bedside table?

I’m reading Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. Also a book about John Jacob Astor. And I’m an absolute mystery nut – that’s my therapy. When life gets a little bit complicated, I do mystery therapy. Dana Stabenow’s books are really good escapes – they take place in Alaska. 

Do you finish a book no matter what?
No. I’ll close a book if I don’t like it.

Kindle or paper?

For my mystery books, it’s Kindle since my bookcases are full. But I like the feel of paper books.

I’m wondering who your favorite literary dinner guests might be?

Louise Penny. Michelle Obama.

That sounds like a fun dinner. What would you cook?

I don’t cook. My husband cooks, fortunately. He’d probably make us a salmon.


Alfredo Tovar is a Library Assistant II at the Eugene Public Library. He is one of the people you might see if you go to take out a library card or renew your card. He also works the checkout counter, deals with fees, greets guests, and says goodbye as people leave the library.

What sort of relationship did you have with the library throughout your childhood and adolescence?
I spent some time in my local library in El Paso, which is one of the state’s best right now. I went there to do reports and homework. I wasn’t there every week or anything, but I did have a relationship with the library. As I started working here, I realized how many resources the library has. I always thought it was just for books, but it’s not just for books. I was amazed. I would come and check out a couple books and not even realize how many programs exist. 

People say that they can find everything on the internet. But there are so many things you can do at the library. You can find information on the internet, but you can’t put your hands on it. And at the library you don’t have to purchase it. There are also so many people with expertise surrounding the library resources who can help you. People don’t judge you here; you can ask questions.

I’m also working with a group called El Grupito, and the whole premise is to bridge the library’s resources with underserved communities. Right now we’re roadmapping how this is going to work and how we can continue outreach to other underserved communities. Right now we’re focusing on the LatinX community. We’re trying to advocate for them to start using the library to better their opportunities, and also better opportunities for the job markets in the city. Hopefully it’ll spur inspiration for them to make their communities stronger for learning and employment later so that the city has a more attractive standing for future investments. We also go to schools to see how we can bridge the gap. We talk to Latin liaisons to collaborate with them and all other types of businesses and institutions to make it a more viable and successful campaign.

When did you start working at the library? What is your role?
I’m a Library Assistant II, so I’m the first person you’ll see if you want to start a library card. If people come from outside the district, I tell them about the benefits that come with paying the fee to use the library. I explain the ways their whole family can benefit from a yearly fee for the library’s educational and entertainment resources. I try to promote the library as much as possible.

What is your favorite memory of working at the library?
When I work at checkout, I always greet people and say, “Have a great night.” Sometimes people will say, “Don’t you get tired of saying that?” And I say, “No, I really want everyone to have a great night.” One night there was a man leaving and I told him to have a great night, like I always do. He looked at me and left, then came back, and said, “You know, you’re the first person to say something nice to me in a while.” It made me feel rewarded. He was able to spend the day at the library, and it might not have been the greatest day, but upon leaving I knew that I was able to help him have a better day. Patrons get to know you at the library as an employee and you get to have such positive interactions.

What is your favorite part of working at the library?

I love being able to interact with people, and to advocate for the library. It’s such a great resource and it makes me feel like I’m contributing to the community by informing them about how many resources are here in the building. It makes me feel good about the city and everything Eugene stands for. I want everyone in the city to know what’s available to them. It makes me feel good to promote a valuable asset and I know there’s a lot of places that have lost their libraries. I’m happy that people in Eugene value education and I want to do the best I can to show that I appreciate my experience working at the library, and help people get the resources they need.

What stands out for you about the Eugene Public Library?

I work with an AMAZING group of people. Everyone is so caring and they bend over backwards to not only give patrons the attention they deserve, but also take care of their coworkers. We have such a diversity of lifestyles, but even though they’re diverse, they all have heart. I work in circulation and everyone I work with has a warmth and support feature that I haven’t had before in a workplace. They genuinely care for their coworkers and the community. I’ve been helped by the generosity and love in my workplace. We always try to help the community as much as we can, and it’s not only in our work groups but it radiates out to the people who come in to use the library’s resources.

Are you a native Eugenian? 

No, I moved here in 2005. I was living in Portland and had a relationship in Eugene. I was working for the city in 2013, but in Fleet Maintenance. I was also working with subsurface. Then I had an accident. I was rock climbing, fell 35 feet, and shattered my back. I couldn’t do the same jobs anymore, but then I found my job at the library.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Eugene?

I love the diverse range of activities you can do outdoors, and the people who are here who enjoy the outdoors and nature as much as I do. Also the conservancy movements helping the environment stay as pristine as possible.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Blowout by Rachel Maddow. I also just checked out You Can’t Spell America Without Me by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen.

In December, I learned about the Imagination Library from the Foundation’s Board of Directors and immediately signed up my 3.5-year-old son for the program. We eagerly awaited his first book and the day that it came in the mail, I told him that it came just for him. His eyes lit up with excitement. “Really?” he asked me. After I told him that a new book would come every month in the mail, he squealed and grinned. 

Reading has evolved for us as he is old enough to follow more complex stories and relate to characters. We talk about the books that we read over and over again, making jokes and referring to the lessons that we find inside the covers. (Don’t bite mama is a big one.) 

Reading has also become a few moments for us to have together, when our focus is on each other and the pages in front of us. We snuggle on our favorite chair to read and that intentional pause in our day has brought us closer. I am eager to give my son the same foundation and connection to reading that I had as a child too. Read more about the Imagination Library. 

– Reed Davaz McGowan

The Mariano Moreno National Library of the Argentine Republic (Biblioteca Nacional “Mariano Moreno” de la República Argentina) was founded as the Public Library of Buenos Aires shortly after the May Revolution in 1810.  It was part of a larger project in the city designed to enhance public awareness of civic life and bring about change through knowledge. The library’s namesake, Mariano Moreno, a hero of the independence movement in Argentina, was instrumental in the creation of the library by decree of the first Government Junta and became its first director.

The library was originally housed in an 18th-century mansion, then in an imposing building in one of the oldest areas of the city.  It is now located at the site of the Unzué Palace, the residence of President Juan Perón and Evita.  Designs for the new building were completed in 1961, but construction was delayed and the new library was not completed until 1992.  The building’s style reflects its mid-century heritage, when Brutalist architecture produced buildings characterized by simple, block-like structures and exposed materials, such as concrete or brick.

The Public Library of Buenos Aires became the National Library of Argentina in 1884.  The library now owns many collections essential to Argentina’s history. Many of the directors have been key intellectual and cultural figures in Argentina’s history, including several famous authors.  These directors have fostered an institution responsible for recording, preserving and teaching about the cultural heritage of Argentina.

Special thanks to Nancy Nathanson for sharing her pictures of libraries she visited in Baja California del Sur, Mexico and Riga, Latvia. If you would like to share library pictures from your travels, please email info@eplfoundation.org.

The Library helps out the community in ways that might surprise you. Here are some of the exciting projects the Library is working on:
Levy. In November, 2015, Eugene voters approved a levy to help fund library materials, increase access and hours. The Library staff presented an update to the City Council this January on how the library has used funds from the levy. Highlights: an almost 90% increase in teen programming in 2019, and an 11% increase in overall circulation last year, as well as new materials, more access and continued high numbers of daily users. To read more: https://www.eugene-or.gov/3354/Levy-information

Got Seeds? On January 26, the library invited the public to their first Seed Sunday, celebrating the launch of a new seed library. Over 200 people attended workshops on gardening, seed harvesting and took home free seeds. The new seed library is catalogued in a rescued card catalogue, stationed on the 2nd floor near the Singer Room. The library will be working to increase its collection of seeds, particularly for native plants. To find out more, or to make a seed donation, contact: Mindie at MMarsh@eugene-or.gov

Wizards, witches and muggles. More than 700 people of all ages attended the Harry Potter Triwizard Tournament on February 7, which featured a giant maze and, of course, a sorting hat. Library director Will O’Hearn is now officially a Hufflepuff. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.

Got books? The Friends of the Library will take them! The Eugene Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library are separate volunteer organizations which work side-by-side to raise funds for the library. The Friends is a membership organization whose mission is to support the library, primarily by collecting and selling books. Books donated to the Friends are sold in the Prose bookstore (located in the foyer of the library), on their online store, at pop-up sales during the year, and at their big book sale, this year on April 18 – 19 at the Lane County Fairgrounds. All proceeds go to the library. They need more books now! Click for more information.

Mark Your Calendars – April 25th we will be hosting a tour at the Oregon Historical Society VaultTickets will be on sale at Booked for the Evening!

Monthly Library Tours
Library tours are available for interested individuals or groups. Please call us at 541 338 7018 or email info@eplfoundation.org for details. 

Would you like to volunteer?

Volunteers are critical to the success of Booked for the Evening and our ongoing work. We are always on the lookout for supporters who share our passion for the library. For more information, contact the Foundation office: (541) 338-7018 or email info@eplfoundation.org.

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

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  

Mark Couet

Monica Wilton

Siri Alexander

Ellen Todras

Freddi Weishahn

Irene Pabo

Johanna Wright

In Memory of

Dr. Maurice Holland

Barbara Bryan

Claire Kelly

Norm & Hazel Smith

Ruth Furniss

Dr. Winston Maxwell

Shirley Allen Tyree

Grace Ward

Betty Dunlap

Irene Junko Stumpf

George Rothbart

Agnes & Robert W. Hilton

David Herrick

Stephen Kessler

Talulah, a beloved dog

Welcome to our new Executive Director

The Eugene Public Library Foundation announced this week that Reed Davaz McGowan, previously executive director of San Francisco-based Youth Art Exchange, has been named executive director of the organization. Davaz McGowan replaces Monica Wilton who recently retired after leading the Foundation for nine years. 

“Growing up in Eugene, I spent much of my childhood at the library exploring and learning,” said Davaz McGowan. “Today, I am incredibly inspired to return and help lead the Foundation that will ensure our library is accessible for generations of children and adults in our community.” 

A Eugene native, Davaz McGowan received her Master’s in Arts Management from the University of Oregon and is returning home after leading Youth Art Exchange and Norris Square Neighborhood Project, a Latinx cultural organization in Philadelphia. In addition to her nonprofit experience, Davaz McGowan is also a multimediadesigner and expert in organizational leadership. 

“We are exceptionally pleased that Reed is joining the Foundation at this important time in our evolution as an organization,” said Eugene Library Foundation president Ellen Todras. “Reed brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit management and a passion for libraries, as well as a unique vantage point as an organizational leader from large and diverse communities. Her broad knowledge of donor development and working with public and private institutions will enable her to help secure an even brighter future for the library and all of its stakeholders.”

Thank you, Cressey Family Charitable Trust

We are grateful to the Cressey Family Charitable Trust for their partnership in supporting learning and literacy building for youth of all ages. Thank you for your grant of $10,000 in 2019, and for your support of Eugene Public Library’s Homework Center and all online resources dedicated to students’ academic success as well as outreach to eligible Imagination Library preschoolers.

Library After Hours  –  A great success!

Library After Hours was a one-time benefit event that took the place of Booked for the Evening in 2019. For $100 per person, guests enjoyed hearty hors d’oeuvres, passed wine, a champagne bar and dessert. They had private access to library services such as green screen photography, virtual reality, robotics, circuitry and more. Thank you to author Cai Emmons who shared some of her creative process and information on Publishing. Her endorsement of libraries was timely and enduring. Mr. George Buss, our nation’s leading Abraham Lincoln, came from Illinois to bring our beloved 16th president to life. His reading of the Gettysburg was a moving reminder of a remarkable time in our nations history. Thank you all for your support of literacy building in Eugene through programs at Eugene Public Library.