A core tenant of Library Services has always been its spaces are for everyone. A place for people to find refuge, a warm place to sit out of the elements, a place to find entertainment, education or like-minded people. For nearly 120 years, Eugene Public Library has been a pillar of our city. Staff have strived to support an informed community, foster lifelong learning and instill the love of reading by providing access to a universe of ideas to everyone.
That dedication hasn’t wavered. We are still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and its many effects, each day bringing seemingly new challenges to overcome. We have changed the way we served and met people’s needs since 2020, but we have continued to work on giving our community the support and access it has told us it wants.
This levy report covers the time period of July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. EPL staff have continued to bring back offerings that were suspended, reinvigorate youth offerings and find new, creative ways to provide services during budget and staffing uncertainty. This timeframe is also the second year of the five-year operating levy passed by Eugene voters by an overwhelming 76 percent. This year we took time to reengage with the work and create updated mission, vision and value statements. We also did a large outreach campaign and heard from more than 4,000 community members. The goal of both initiatives was to connect more closely with what we experience every day from those who pass through our doors. It was a long, important process that will guide our future work. From talking about our core values of continuing to provide compassionate, patron-first service to working together to create a community where people matter, we led thinking about Eugene first.
In the end we chose “providing equitable resources and opportunities for everyone to create a connected, caring and inspired community” as our mission statement. We think it fits the bill at this moment in time. Challenges are on the horizon, but our dedication to building Eugene up has not. We have increased who has access to library cards in a variety of ways and are pushing for more. We are always expanding and updating our selections and helping our town’s youth find safe places to just be.
We’ve said it before and will continue to say: your library card, now more than ever, is more powerful.
Access to services and resources are at the core of our mission at Eugene Public Library. Whether in person or online, access to free materials helps create an informed community.
Our Levy Promise
Our levy promise was to maintain the existing level of library services funded by the 2015 levy. We promised to preserve 47 open hours a week across the Downtown Library and Bethel and Sheldon branches. We did that in year one of the 2020 levy renewal and we continued to provide the same level of hours in FY23, giving increased opportunities for cardholders to borrow materials and use resources.
We saw an increase in visitors this past year to 826, 982 across our three facilities. For comparison, in FY22 we had 505,270 people pass through our doors.
For perspective, before the pandemic we had more than 1.1 million visits. We are continuing to make great strides in bringing more people back through our doors. Every facility saw modest to significant increases in traffic. The Downtown Library continued to rush toward pre-COVID numbers, jumping by 79.1 percent in annual visits. Bethel Branch also saw a robust increase at 20.9 percent over FY22, while Sheldon had an increase of 5.4 percent.
During the past year we also increased registered users by 8,860. The total number of cardholders in FY23 was 98,497. An astute observer might recall the number of registered users in FY22 was 112,695. The cause for the difference is long-time inactive users were purged from the system.
Staff continued to go into the community for outreach opportunities, attending large events like the Black Cultural Festival, Pride and arts and cultural events at the Farmers Market Pavilion. All told staff went to 169 events with the sole purpose of outreach. Staffing these large outreach events continues to be a challenge in the face of budget reductions, and EPL is currently working on how to continue outreach efforts to keep the library out in the community where it belongs.
Every day we build partnerships to increase access. The Friends of the Eugene Public Library and Eugene Public Library Foundation are partners in this work. Through the years our partnerships have yielded greater access in programs like providing wireless hotspots to check out. In FY23 we continued this strong work by purchasing isopods for Sheldon Branch. We also collaborated again with Eugene 4J to provide library cards to children ages 0-5 who live outside of the city limits but who attend school in town.
Creating Places for Teens
Teens in our community are an underserved population and outside of school don’t have many places where they can commune and be with materials catered to their interests and needs. Eugene Public Library features intentionally designed spaces, services and activities for teens at all three locations. These places include things you might expect, like computers, curated books and multimedia materials like video games and movies, but also other greatly needed things like toiletries. These comfort cabinets have person hygiene items that some teens don’t consistently have access to at home.
All three locations recently updated their teen spaces to be even more inclusive and safe. For example, Bethel Branch staff moved teen materials into the vault room so they could have a more private space, and at the Downtown Library, a glass partition was installed so teens can be their normal, sometimes loud selves without worry of disturbing other patrons.
“Teens are super creative, they’re funny, it’s just always super delightful to see the wonderful adults they’re becoming,” Teen Librarian Caitlin McMahan says. “This is like a special area of the library.”
We continued to see an increase in circulation across the system, with a 5.4 percent growth. Downtown and virtual circulation were particularly strong as we continue to provide more materials for digital consumption.
Books and resources make up just a part of what Eugene Public Library offers. In year two of the operating levy, we continued to increase our free, diverse programming that people were eager to see return after the pandemic. We brought back more programs that served kids, teens and adults and started new programs to reach out to underserved populations.
Our levy promise
Our levy promise for this second five years was to maintain the 1/3 increase in programming we sustained in the first levy. We promised to maintain the Maker equipment and sustain the increased offsite delivery of programs and the Library Van.
We still have not reached pre-pandemic program numbers, but we again made significant progress with an increase from 580 events in FY22 to 798 in FY23. Attendance also increased from one year to the next, from 17,228 to 30,312.
In FY22 we phased back programming, beginning with baby storytimes. In the past year we increased programming across the system. The largest leaps came in adult, young adult and elementary programming. We also started programs that were more inclusive to all age ranges in FY22, and we doubled the number of offerings for all-age programs from 19 to 42.
One service that we introduced in May 2023 was installing a freestanding receptacle to return EPL items outside Amazon Pool. The pilot project aimed to make library borrowing even more convenient and sustainable for everyone in Eugene. The new return is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and items are picked up twice weekly. The receptacle has been a success, opening the possibility for more in other parts of the city in the future including Santa Clara and southwest Eugene.
Working With the Mission
Working with everyone in the community, even the most marginalized, is a hallmark of libraries the country over. It’s not different in Eugene, where our staff strive to create welcoming environments at all three locations. Sometimes the local library is a person’s third place -- or even only place. We also go to where these marginalized populations are. Staff have started working with the Eugene Mission to go onsite and provide training to anyone who was interested.
It started first with offering computer basics, which was really helping folks navigate what they needed rather than a structured class. From there staff opened and offered a creative writing class with lessons in poetry, creative nonfiction and fantasy world building. Now staff are doing an “intro to” series, where they taught classes on their own hobbies like bullet journaling, mindfulness, mending and knitting.
“These classes fall under our ‘community recovery’ priority for programs,” EPL Adult Librarian Kate Berry says. “They’re important because we’re making connections with marginalized community members. We’re building relationships that will hopefully translate to them coming to the library because we’ve made them feel welcome and included.”
Eugene Public Library continually works to maintain a diverse collection of materials for our community. That means making items available in physical and digital forms as well as providing access to a broad range of materials and technology.
Our levy promise
Our levy promise was to maintain the library’s budget for books, movies, eBooks and other items as well as to maintain and replace internet-ready devices at Bethel and Sheldon branches.
We continued to increase access to computers for community members. Libraries play a critical role in bridging the digital divide through internet access and online training. From job hunting to staying in touch with friends and family, being able to access the internet is a critical part of life now. The total number of computer sessions in FY23 was 82,602, up from 52,479 in FY22.
We’ve noted in previous levy reports the success of the wireless hotspot program. During FY22 the Eugene Public Library Foundation joined with the Friends of Eugene Public Library to raise $60,000 to purchase 300 hotspots to lend. The campaign surpassed its goal. Generous individual donors as well as the Oregon Library Innovation Fund of Oregon Community Foundation gave a total of $102,000, which allowed the project to launch with 500 hotspots – 250 to lend and 250 supplied to local agencies that serve unhoused community members and others facing barriers to internet access. This program has been an incredible success and currently we loan out laptops with hotspots so people can access the internet regardless if they have it at home.
Another new, low-cost service we provide to anyone is our resume printing program. Anyone can come into a library branch and get up to 10 copies of their resume or cover letter printed. The library is a placeholder for success, and providing this cheap service helps eliminate another barrier for some to finding a job in our community.
Our overall collection grew to 1,821,091 items. We increased digital offerings from 1.1 million to 1,3 million, while reducing our physical collection by 31,758 items.
Speaking Books for Kids
In the continued effort to provide new and diverse materials for the community, Eugene Public Library started lending VOX Books for children. These picture books feature a built-in audio player that reads the words on each page aloud at the push of a button. EPL provides 245 VOX picture books and early reader titles so far, including English, Spanish, bilingual English/Spanish and bilingual English/Chinese. Titles in French and Japanese have also been added.
VOX Books won the 2021 National Parenting Product Award in their Best Books for Kids and Families category and a 2021 Mom’s Choice Award.
"We're so happy to start lending VOX Books," librarian Rebecca Saxon said. "They're easy for young children to use without help, which is handy for caregivers and fun for the kids. …VOX Books are also a great support for kids who have started reading and are having some challenges. And they're often appealing to kids who haven't found books especially engaging yet. Really for everyone, they're just a super fun way to read."
Trust and libraries go hand in hand. The staff at Eugene Public Library takes the community's trust seriously. Study after study prove libraries remain highly trusted because of their proven ability to foster and share knowledge and to maintain people’s privacy.
Our levy promise
Our levy promise is to guarantee accountability and transparency. In this measure, we promised to separate levy fund budgeting and accounting per state law, to prepare an annual staff summary of spending and performance measures, an annual review by the citizen Library Advisory Board and an annual City Manager’s report to City Council.
Some Details on FY 2023 Levy Spending
The Library Local Option Levy is set at $2.85 million per year for five years, in accordance with state law restrictions regarding how levies are structured.
*Each year of the levy, we intentionally reserve funds as part of budget planning for the full five years. While the levy provides the same amount of revenue each year, spending fluctuates because of ongoing expansion of services as well as increased costs, inflation and other factors. Funds are budgeted in order to ensure the ability to fulfill levy promises throughout the duration.
This report shows one side of the levy story. The greater picture, though, shows how access to programs, materials and resources contribute to a more informed and engaged community. This is evident in countless stories from the public.
After all, libraries are not just about books, they are about people. The extended levy services helped us meet the needs of the community even while we continue to adjust during the pandemic. Library staff, partners and volunteers spend every day supporting an informed community and fostering lifelong learning and a love for reading. That’s at the heart of our work.
We’re committed to free access to the universe of ideas and information for our community as we serve through changing times. That dedication allows Eugene Public Library to adapt and remain essential to the lives of residents, and keeps our library a truly public place.
Specific plans are built into the levy to ensure accountability and transparency, including: separate levy fund budget and accounting (as per state law); annual staff summary of spending and performance measures; annual review by the citizen Library Advisory Board; and an annual City Manager’s report to City Council.
Regular updates will be posted here on the Library’s website. Printable pdf files are provided below.
- Year 2 Levy Report (PDF)
- City Council Work Session: February 14, 2024 - Year 2 Levy Report Presentation
- Year 1 Levy Report (PDF)
- City Council Work Session: December 14, 2022 - Year 1 Levy Report Presentation