April 24, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Library faces dire cuts as budget moves to council

7 min read
Jenny Jonak: The Library of Alexandria did not get destroyed from one cataclysmic event. It declined gradually over several centuries because of a lack of funding and support. We lost one of the greatest collections of human knowledge because of a failure to prioritize it.

The budget committee recommended Wednesday that the city council cut $4 million dollars from the library’s two-year budget, eliminating nine full-time staff positions. With public comment May 24:

[00:00:12] Amanda Friese: Hi everyone. My name is Amanda. As the facilitator and coordinator of the Bethel Early Literacy Project Family Council, I am dedicated to promoting early literacy efforts in our community by meeting the community where they’re at. Over the last two years, the library has supported the coordination of the Bethel Early Literacy Project to help us understand how the community can and wants to access resources.

[00:00:36] (I wanted to start) today to advocate for full funding of the Eugene Library Bethel Branch outreach librarian to facilitate the outreach plan that was created by Bethel parents and families for Bethel parents and families.

[00:00:51] I hope that you will join me in affirming that development of strong early literacy skills is a key factor in increasing high school graduation rates and building a thriving community.

[00:01:01] Research has shown that third grade reading scores are directly correlated with graduation rates and future success. And exposure to books and vocabulary in the home is directly correlated with third grade reading scores. In a 2021-22 school year, only 29.9% of Bethel district’s third graders were reading at a proficient level compared to 47.9% of Eugene 4J school district third-graders.

[00:01:27] The Eugene Library has invested time and resources to engage the Bethel community in enhancing early literacy efforts through the Bethel Early Literacy project. The development of the project’s family council led to the creation of an outreach plan that was created by Bethel families and parent approved.

[00:01:44] What we learned from this council is that we need to bring library resources out of the library and meet the community where they’re at. The position of outreach librarian is vital to the success of this plan. I hope you’ll support the Eugene Library’s dedication to engaging the Bethel community through the funding of the outreach librarian position at the Bethel Branch.

[00:02:03] Jenny Jonak: My name is Jenny Jonak. I live in Eugene outside of the wards. I first moved to Eugene and was blown away by how amazing our Eugene Public Library is. I volunteered at the information desk and I have been on the board of the Friends of the Eugene Public Library and the Eugene Public Library Foundation.

[00:02:22] I just wanted to talk for a few minutes about how important the library is for our community. It gives students a safe place to go after school. It functions as a community center. People can search job postings. Nonprofits can search for grants. People without resources can access computers. In the internet, there’s even a card catalog that’s been converted for seed sharing.

[00:02:47] And the importance of books. They’re not just about sharing knowledge, they’re also about sharing perspective, which is more important than ever with our society’s rise of hate and bias incidents.

[00:03:00] So I’m urging you to find a way to minimize the cuts that have to be made to the library. The impact is going to be enormous, including on students and those with the least resources.

[00:03:13] Last week I, I saw something on social media where friends were asking each other: ‘If you could create a blockbuster action movie, what would you pick?’ And one friend talked about, ‘I’d be a librarian powerful enough to fight off the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.’

[00:03:29] And it made me laugh, but in reality, the Library of Alexandria did not get destroyed from one cataclysmic event. It declined gradually over several centuries because of a lack of funding and support. We lost one of the greatest collections of human knowledge because of a failure to prioritize it.

[00:03:49] So I want to ask you, please, I know you have difficult decisions ahead of you, but let’s not let that happen in Eugene. The library is such an important resource for our community. Please find a way to preserve more of its budget.

[00:04:04] Henry Alley: I’m Henry Alley. I live in South Eugene, and I’m here to join the number of people who support funding for the Eugene Public Library. I was president of the Lane Literary Guild here in Eugene twice, once in 1986 and once in 2018.

[00:04:23] The Eugene Public Library has housed the wonderful Windfall Reading Series meetings for 23 years. It’s provided space for our readers in the Bascom-Tykeson room. It provided announcements and attendance for book sales eight months out of the year every year, two authors per month.

[00:04:45] That is poets and writers from our local area, but also from throughout Eugene and other parts of the country were housed by the Eugene Public Library for the reading series. Doing the math, that’s over 300 writers over the years.

[00:05:00] 2020 brought Covid and the library funded the Windfall Reading Series online. because of Eugene’s public support, viewers throughout the world are learning about our library and about Eugene through our host, Wendy Beck, and are learning that Eugene is a cultural literary center because of the library support.

[00:05:20] Linda Ague: Hi, my name is Linda Ague. I am on the board of the Friends of the Library. I am asking you to look at restoring some funding to the library. You have already heard about the effects of staffing losses and the effect of a 2 million cut in programming and resources. Now, please consider this.

[00:05:36] In 2020, 72% of Eugene voters said ‘Yes’ to a library levy. It was not just a vote of confidence for what was already a happening at the library, but a request for more:

  • more hours for people to look for jobs, solve problems, find sanctuary;
  • more access to resources like the internet they may not have at home, the sewing machine that might provide an income, the information required to complete an assignment needed to finally get that degree,
  • more programming to stimulate literacy more equitably for the children of our city, to avoid isolation among our older citizens as they experience a loss of social connection, and sometimes just about fun when fun seems so hard to come by.

[00:06:19] The needs of the library constantly change as the needs of the people who use the library change. Between 2020 and 2021, computer sessions increased by 400%, and the library responded with increased computer capacity and circulating hotspots.

[00:06:35] COVID shut down the library makerspace and the library responded with a circulating Library of Things. It’s hard to say what the next change will be. We just know the library needs the resources to respond as they always have.

[00:06:49] As much as this budget might be about crisis management, it is also about quality of life in our city. Although many come to the library in crisis, the library is about providing daily for the highly individualized needs of the people of Eugene.

[00:07:04] As much as your budget is about the issues of downtown, it is about the library. As much as your budget is about equity and inclusion, it is about the library look in those areas to help keep our library the active downtown center, it always strives to be.

The pinch is already being felt, as books are starting to take more time to be put back on the shelves after they are returned. Hold materials are taking longer to be pulled from the shelves and be set aside.

“We can expect a noticeable slowdown in the circulation process,” said Renee Buchanan, board president of the Eugene Public Library Foundation. “The cuts will mean fewer new materials, including requests for materials not being able to be met.”

There will be a reduction in materials online too, such as fewer databases and materials through Hoopla and Kanopy. Little to no programming will be able to take place outside of the library. “This hurts vulnerable populations, in particular,” Renee said. “The library has wonderful programs for elderly living in assisted living and residents of the Eugene Mission. They will no longer have the staff to meet the community’s needs.”

While nearly every department in the City of Eugene will be affected by the cuts, the library’s cut is outsized. Although the library constitutes just 2% of the city’s budget, it is slated to absorb 13% of the budget cuts and 26% of the staffing cuts.

“I’m very concerned about the library staff,” admits Dana Fleming, executive director of the Eugene Public Library Foundation, and parent of a library staff member. “They are already being asked to perform the duties of social services workers and nurses. These cuts in staffing will undoubtedly take a toll on their mental health.”

Foundation board members, in conjunction with the board of the Friends of the Eugene Public Library are asking the Budget Committee and city councilors to reduce the cuts. At minimum, they are requesting that one outreach librarian position be added back, who would be designated to support early literacy in the Bethel area.

“The Bethel area needs extra support,” Dana emphasized. “Students who are not meeting benchmarks in reading at third grade are less likely to achieve educational standards. We know Bethel area students are struggling and we know this position can make a difference for them.”

[00:07:21] John Q: Renee Buchanan and Dana Fleming of the Eugene Public Library Foundation ask that concerned community members email the city council. The council will vote on a final budget in June.

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