Dear Friends,

November marks the time of year when our thoughts turn particularly to thankfulness. One of the things I am deeply grateful for is our beautiful local library. As Luis Herrera, former City Librarian for San Francisco Public Library, wrote, “The public library of today, with its commitment to welcoming all who come through its doors, expresses truly American values, providing open and free access to information, knowledge and enlightenment, and transforming the lives of its users.” This so aptly describes the mission and effect of the Eugene Public Library.

Judy Cox (right) and mother, Carol Houde (left), pose with Dolly Parton Imagination Library cutout at the Imagination Library Luncheon

It has been a busy fall at the Eugene Public Library Foundation. The Imagination Library Luncheon on September 12 was a great success, with hundreds of guests celebrating the Imagination Library’s 5th year of operation in Eugene. Our guest speaker, children’s author Judy Cox, inspired us with her passion for and knowledge of children’s literacy. To read Judy’s entire speech, click here.

At the end of September, the Foundation’s long-time Executive Director, Monica Wilton, retired, and Andrew McNall is now serving as Interim Executive Director. Please do stop by the Foundation office to say hi to Andrew, or read Andrew’s article further down in this newsletter. He brings a wealth of knowledge and capability to this position.

It has been a busy year at the Eugene Public Library as well. In fiscal year 2018, the total number of visitors to the three branches of the library rose 10% over 2017, hitting a whopping 1,158,737. WOW. This statistic confirms that the Eugene Public Library is one of the most relevant places in the city. And—back to gratitude—for that we are grateful to you, the Foundation donors, who have helped make the library the gem that it is.

Wishing you all a lovely holiday season, and a good year to follow,
Ellen Todras

Giving that Inspires: Tom Kamis

Tom Kamis (right) and wife, Evelina Davidova-Kamis (left), take a selfie on the Black Sea Coast

Giving That Inspires introduces you to a Eugene Public Library Foundation supporter. This month’s profile features Tom Kamis, owner of The Davis Restaurant & Bar, located at the corner of West Broadway and Olive Street. Just a stone’s throw from the Eugene Public Library, Tom and the Davis have been strong supporters of the Library Foundation, to the extent of donating delicious hors d’oeuvres to Foundation events.

Do you remember your earliest experience of a library?
I was probably five years old. I went to the library on the south side of Chicago to read stories to kids. I spent a lot time there through grade school. Then I moved to a different town and school, but I still had books everywhere. I’d either bring home books or animals. My room was just full of books as a child. I still lug around about 20 crates of books from my past.

What brought you to Oregon?
I left Chicago one winter and wanted to get somewhere warm. I was 22, and interested in doing theatre and was planning on going to California or New York but ended up in Arizona. I had serious wanderlust, and moved every season to experience something new for a long time. I’ve lived in 20 different states and 32 different cities. 

At one point, I was a river guide in California and came to Oregon to run rivers and lived in Portland for about a year. Oregon really stood out. The two favorite places I’ve lived, scenery-wise, have been Oregon and New Mexico…and, people-wise, Oregon and Minnesota. But Minnesota is way too cold for me.

How did you get into the restaurant business?
My first job was working for Little Caesars – I was 15 and lied to get the job. I was a waiter for a long time and cooked too. It was easy to pick up these kinds of jobs as I moved around, and it also kept me in the industry.

How did that evolve into running a restaurant in downtown Eugene?
I’d been in Eugene about 13 years and already had a restaurant. I heard a rumor that owners of the then Chinese restaurant [where The Davis is now located] were frustrated with the downtown situation and looking for a way out. Because of my parents and family I have a deep-seated affection for community. They drilled into me from an early age how important it is to be involved in your community. I took “involved” to mean inclusion. Here in Eugene the importance of that has been made really clear to me. One of my first jobs in town was working at Café Soriah – “Ib” [owner Ibrahim Hamide] is so connected to our community. He’s the reason I’m still here in Eugene after all these years. I liked working for that man so much and still go to him for advice all of the time – about anything. He’s my favorite person in Eugene; he’s the example I follow.

How did your support for community and inclusion lead to your involvement with the Eugene Public Library Foundation?
It really just happened accidentally with the library. I’d been involved with DIVA a lot, and had hooked up with other causes that I believed were worthwhile. We helped with dinners here when the new library first opened – in-kind donations and the like — and then it just evolved from there. 

I think the Eugene Library is great. If there’s one thing I could change it’s that I wish more people would use the library! I know that today’s libraries function more like community centers and am aware of all that libraries need to do to survive. But when I think about libraries, I remember how my mother would go and pick out random books for me all of the time. I started reading at age 3 and by kindergarten she said I was reading at a 4th grade level. That is the proudest moment for her.  Still, my sister is the smartest person in the family and she hates reading. She doesn’t even own a book (well, maybe a cookbook). It just baffles me. Every Christmas I buy her a book; she probably gives it away to friends. I wish people would realize what a treasure a book is. I know libraries aren’t and can’t be just about book storage anymore. But it makes me kind of sad. I just wish people would read more!

In what ways have books intersected with your somewhat nomadic life?
I’ve read so many books. Eventually, I got tired of reading about places and wanted to go see them. I love to travel and even want to live abroad one day. 

In every place I go, there’s a sentence, a story, a word that I want to go and see with my own eyes. For example, there’s a book that I read recently about a guy that repairs brass instruments – tubas – in Arizona, right on the border with Mexico. Mexico has an amazing array of brass bands. So the next trip that my wife and I are going to take is to Yuba, AZ.  This book talks about this tuba repair shop there and paints a very quaint picture. I’m sure it’s not like that anymore but I want to see it with my own eyes.  

Do you have a favorite book?
Hands down, Watership Down. Currently, I’m reading a lot of historical books. I don’t know if I really enjoy them or am just learning from them, because I’m getting more and more enraged with each one I read. People leave books all the time in restaurants. It’s happened my whole life, doesn’t matter what kind of restaurant it is. I picked one up about six months ago – Children of the Night by Dan Simmons. I also really like Hunter Thompson’s writing and his life – it’s  so full of everything. My reckless side probably comes from reading him. I like to take chances, and am very comfortable with my life ebbing and flowing as it will. I get that from the books I read.

Do you believe that books find you?
My mom believes that 100%. 

You’re a fixture in our downtown community. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I once got to have dinner with David Sedaris.  A while back, the UO bookstore was sponsoring his visit to Eugene.  I knew a few people there, and said, “I’ll treat him to dinner if you bring him to Café Soriah.”  I’m never afraid to ask. Never be afraid to ask…always throw it out there and see what comes back. Sure enough, he  shows up! 

So there we were: me, my girlfriend at the time, David Sedaris, and his manager having dinner. The only bad part of the meal was that his manager talked too much. I do remember he was very surprised to learn I had a connection to his sister [Amy Sedaris, a comedienne]. When I was in Chicago, I went to Second City and met Amy there and we were in an improv group together for about one minute!

Anyway, when I saw him in person, it was the first time I ever felt starstruck. Every book he’s ever written I’ve read five or six times over. 

Library Staff Spotlight: Maureen Campbell, Custodian

Maureen Campbell has been employed as a custodian at the Eugene Public Library for two and a half years. She is multitalented, with impressive oil painting and woodworking skills. With a background in Geology and Environmental Science, Maureen has a love and passion for nature and the outdoors. 

Are you a local Eugenian?
I was born in New Jersey, then moved to Houston at age 9. I attended college at the University of Wyoming and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geology. I moved to Eugene in 1984 to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Studies, focusing on Watershed Resources. After I completed my Master’s degree, I worked for the Forest Service in the Willamette National Forest as a hydrologic technician, and then a district hydrologist. After leaving the Forest Service, I designed and built handcrafted furniture before working for the city, doing landscaping on downtown blocks and throughout Eugene.

What are your experiences with the local public library during your upbringing?
I actually started out studying forestry in East Texas, then switched to geology. I love the natural sciences and being outdoors. That’s why I pursued those subject matters. Geology is absolutely fascinating. Going to libraries comes with the territory of being a student. There are a lot of technical documents and instruction manuals that come from the library that I needed to succeed as a student.

When did you start working at the library?
I’ve worked here for about two and a half years. My goal was to work for the city and I had a connection with someone who worked downtown who suggested working as a custodian for the library. I knew I would have good benefits, and this job has a lot of variety and keeps me physically active. I get to meet a lot of people and talk with them around the library.

What is your favorite part about your job working at the library?
I really enjoy meeting new people, talking with them, and being able to stay active every day.

What is your favorite memory from working at the library?
One of the coolest things at the library was to listen to people play the piano under the trees outside the library and have their beautiful music intermingle with the sound of the rustling leaves above.

What stands out for you about the Eugene Public Library?
There’s a wide variety of people who use the library, so it’s fun to get to see people who I haven’t seen in a while out of the blue. Libraries have changed a lot in my lifetime, having DVDs and music, and all of the different programs offered for kids and teens. It’s also a shelter for the homeless population who need a place to be during the daytime when the weather is inclement, or even just a place to charge their phones. I think that’s a really important aspect that the library is helping to share. Computer services are also important for those who cannot access the internet at home, or may not have computers. I think it’s also important to be positive and friendly with the whole community, specifically populations who don’t always get a positive interaction with others out in the world. It’s important to be a friendly worker bee to everybody and put positive energy out into the world.

What is your favorite thing about living in Oregon?
I love being an hour from the coast and an hour from the Cascades. I love the beauty of the area, as well as the people who live here.

What are you reading right now?
I’ve been reading Alexander McCall Smith’s series on the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.” It takes place in Botswana. It’s fascinating to hear about the country and people. It’s also an easy pace and the stories he shares are interesting since it’s a man writing about a female dominant character and the relationships developed in the books are from a unique perspective. I like to read action and adventure books, but I also collect art books from a variety of different oil painters throughout time. 

Meet Andrew McNall, Interim Executive Director

Greetings patrons and supporters of the Eugene Public Library. It is a privilege to serve as the Interim Executive Director of the Eugene Public Library Foundation.

First, I want to say thank you to Ellen Todras and the Foundation Board for offering me the opportunity to serve in this role. And, a warm thank you to Monica Wilton as well for the outstanding work she has done for the Foundation over the past nine years.

You should be tremendously proud of what your investment has accomplished at the Eugene Public Library. Because of your faithful support as donors, the Library offers the community a wealth of resources, many of which I have discovered myself for the first time: A Maker Hub with a wide array of tools, equipment and materials; a Media Lab for all kinds of sound and recording productions; literacy programs for children, teens and adults; and, author readings open to the public.

In just a short time, the Library Foundation has grown to the point that it contributes about $500,000 annually in supplemental funding to the Eugene Public Library. Your gifts are making a huge difference to literacy, creativity and innovation inspired by the resources our Library can offer. I hope you will continue to stay engaged with us as we have new and exciting projects underway that we look forward to sharing with you in the coming months. If it’s not already on your calendar, please plan to join us at Booked for the Evening on Saturday, April 4, 2020 when we announce these plans.

Once again, I am grateful for your commitment to making the Eugene Public Library a special place for our community.

With heartfelt thanks,
Andrew McNall, Ph.D.
Interim Executive Director

Our Library: Behind the Scenes

Behind the scenes, the library helps out the community in ways that might surprise you. Here are some of the exciting new projects the library is working on:

– A New Mission. Many of the library’s patrons overlap with the people to whom the Eugene Mission provides aid. In order to improve services, we are teaming up. The library and Mission staff are working together to partner on programming and offer activities tailored to people who not only need shelter at night, but places to go during the day. Popular events: a duct tape wallet workshop, and a healing yoga class. Like all library offerings, these activities are open to the public, and as a result have become a bonus opportunity for people from all walks of life to mingle and get to know one another’s stories. 

– A Mobile Desk. Look for new assistance in the Media Section of the library. Because large numbers of people use the Media Section, a new librarian desk has been added near this section of the library to help patrons who need it. The desk will be staffed during busy hours to support folks who need help during that time.

– No Fines for Kids. Libraries across the country are discovering that fines for overdue books don’t work as intended. Rather than motivate patrons to return books on time, fines tend to discourage people from returning books, and sometimes from checking books out at all. To counter this, the Eugene Public Library is instituting a no-fine pilot program for young adult and children’s books. Sign up for the library eNewsletter here to get the latest details. 

Libraries of the World: Bodleian Libraries

The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University are celebrated all over the world for their beautiful architecture and vast collections of manuscripts and books.  Every 14 seconds someone visits one of the libraries, which together hold over 13 million items, including such treasures as the Magna Carta, the Song of Roland, a Gutenberg Bible, and the letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley.  

Though the current Bodleian Library dates back to 1602, the first library at Oxford existed as far back as the 14th century. At the turn of the 17th century, Sir Thomas Bodley revitalized that library, which was beset by lack of funding, anti-Catholic fervor, and the bane of all libraries, unreturned manuscripts.  By 1620, 16,000 items were in the collection, including a book in Chinese.  To further expand the collection, in 1610 Sir Bodley made an agreement with the Stationer’s Company, the exclusive publisher in England at the time, that the Bodleian Library should receive a copy of every book published.  This agreement, along with many donations from generous  benefactors, meant the library collection expanded exponentially over the next four centuries. 

The collections now occupy five buildings, including the 15th century Duke Humphrey’s Library, the 17th Century Schools Quadrangle, the 18th Century Clarendon Building and Radcliffe Camera, and the 20th and 21st Century Weston Library, as well as off-site storage. The library remains a “legal deposit” library, and receives a copy of each book published in the United Kingdom.  Materials may not be removed from the libraries, but must be examined in one of the reading rooms – a rule so strictly enforced it even prevented King Charles I from checking out a book in 1645.  

Today, the Bodleian Libraries group includes the original Bodleian Library, as well as 27 other libraries across Oxford.  The public can access the vast collection online, or visit the library itself and register as a reader, provided they are willing to make the following declaration: 

“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”

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 – 
Bob Nelson
Victoria Coates
Nicola Luka Coltrane
Kathie Wiper
Harper Grace Schneider
Susan Parker

In Memory Of –
Joyce Osternig
Louise Dean & Helen Keyser

Julia Snell
John Crumbley
David Herrick
Lorraine “Dixie” Stovall Woodside
Goldie Scott
Martha Merritt
Diane Norelius
Claudie Danonville
Donna Johns
Dr. Edward F. Wilson
Ellen Galson Ritteman

For a complete list, or for more information on naming opportunities, please visit us online.