May 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Residents urged to advocate for library as city proposes deep budget cuts

5 min read
Reading proficiency by third grade is tantamount to success in later life. The Eugene Public Library helps provide critical support for students in those early years.

The library faces big cuts in the proposed budget. Asking the public to speak out on behalf of equity, president of the Eugene Public Library Foundation board, Renee Buchanan.

[00:00:10] Renee Buchanan (Eugene Public Library Foundation, board president): The proposed entire cut to the library is $4 million over two years, $2 million per year. And that parses down to 9.2 FTE (Full Time Equivalent positions) and just a little shy of $1 million per year in materials and services.

[00:00:27] Looking at the overall city budget, the library rounds to 2% of the city’s budget. But that proposed budget cut, that comes to 13%. The 9.2 FTE cuts constitutes 26% of all of the FTE cuts.

[00:00:45] So it just seems extraordinarily large proportionately for the library to be absorbing these cuts.

[00:00:52] John Q: Those nine persons at the library are filling gaps in community services.

[00:01:01] Dana Fleming (Eugene Public Library Foundation, executive director): It can definitely be a very high-stress job. A lot of them, you know, when they went into library science, did not anticipate that they would also be social workers and nurses and conflict resolution specialists and they are really good at threading the needle between all of those jobs.

[00:01:18] Another thing that they do is go out into the community and they go to the (Eugene) Mission and they’re teaching a computer skills class there. Amazing, beautiful things happen inside and outside the walls.

[00:01:30] And so, it’s a service that crosses over so many things that I think the city says they prioritize. And I don’t know that they’re thinking about that when they’re thinking about the budget cuts. You know, how that impacts public safety.

[00:01:45] And with that shortage and staffing, they are all very stretched as well. And so it impacts them psychologically and physically, but it also impacts programming. The time when librarians and library staff shine is when they really can translate their amazing personal interests into some really amazing programming.

[00:02:08] John Q: Consider just one of the nine FTE positions. That person might support the Bethel early literacy project.

[00:02:16] Renee Buchanan: If we could get one FTE outreach librarian assigned to the Bethel branch in early literacy, we could make a significant impact in that community that really needs extra support.

[00:02:30] Dana Fleming: Reading proficiency by third grade is tantamount to success in later life. I’m not sure if you’ve looked at reading scores for the state of Oregon, but we’re not doing so great on that. And so having some extra support with that, it behooves us as a community to make sure that our, especially our youngest, citizens are set up for success. This is too great a community to miss that mark.

[00:02:53] I think really we need the public, their support, to step up and say, ‘We love the library.’ 77% of the city of Eugene, when they voted for the levy, voted (and resoundingly) approving of the library levy, the most recent one.

[00:03:10] And in a day and age when a lot of people can’t agree on things, that was a pretty resounding agreement.

[00:03:16] John Q: Renee also encouraged the community to write, show up, and amplify.

[00:03:20] Renee Buchanan: They can write the budget committee; people can submit written testimony by email. They can also watch the budget hearings (May) 10, 17, and 24 at 5:30 (p.m.), they can watch it online and follow along.

[00:03:35] We also have our own social media, and if they could share it, repost it. So to amplify the message, we would appreciate that as well.

[00:03:45] So those are the basic ways: Write, show up, and amplify.

[00:03:50] John Q: She explained why cuts to the general fund will hit the library especially hard.

[00:03:56] Renee Buchanan: The library is one of the very few organizations that have no funding source.

[00:04:03] Everybody else has some sort of funding source. Parking has fees that they can charge for parking or ticketing or there’s some ways they can do that. Recreation, they could increase fees to take a class, hopefully on a sliding scale, proportionate to what people can pay.

[00:04:19] The library has absolutely no funding source that they could use to try to mitigate some of these budget cuts coming from the general budget.

[00:04:28] John Q: To address equity issues, the library no longer collects overdue fines.

[00:04:33] Renee Buchanan: The library stopped charging fines for overdue materials. I’ve heard a little pushback of, ‘How do we teach people personal responsibility?’ The flip side is what we’re seeing. We’re following a national trend that, one, the materials come back when we don’t have a fine. When there’s a fine, they sit in people’s homes and aren’t returned because people are afraid of paying the fines. So we’re getting our materials back, one.

[00:04:57] And two is, the equity issue is, for one person charging a few dollars a fine is not a big deal. But for another it’s huge. We feel like this is an equity issue and are really happy with not having fines.

[00:05:10] John Q: Just 17 percent of the library’s funding comes from the levy. Most comes from the general fund, and fines do not generate revenue.

[00:05:20] Renee Buchanan: Ultimately, the fines just covered themselves. The cost of administering the fines really was all that we were getting in money for the fines. So here we are, no funding source for the library, bearing the brunt of 13% of cuts.

[00:05:33] John Q: The library contributes in so many ways to city equity and sustainability goals.

[00:05:39] Dana Fleming: So there are so many things going on…There could be so many more things and the staff could feel like they could really expand and shine.

[00:05:49] People using and lending materials instead of purchasing their own. I mean, The Library of Things is an amazing new addition. And who knew that you could check out anything from a cake pan to a metal detector to a paper shredder to now they have these amazing cats that sit in your lap and purr, they feel like real cats and they’re really instrumental with people who are dealing with memory care and make people feel at home and comforted and grounded and, my gosh, isn’t that what we need in this day and age?

[00:06:22] John Q: The budget committee starts meeting this week. Learn more online and participate in the discussion.

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