Since its creation nearly 120 years ago, Eugene Public Library has been a pillar of our city. The library’s mission has been 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. Through the ebbs and flows of life, the library has remained a place of sanctuary. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to provide access to programs, services, materials and technology – even if it was at a reduced level. We changed the way we served and met people’s needs, and even with limited hours, our locations remained some of the most visited and utilized places in the city. People said the library was a lifeline for them during the long months of the pandemic.
This levy report covers the time period of July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, which includes part of the second year of the pandemic and the months of reopening and increasing of services.
As vaccines became available and infection numbers dwindled, we started to bring back offerings that were suspended. This is the first year of a new five-year operating levy passed by Eugene voters by an overwhelming 76%.
As you will read, FY21-22 was about bringing services back to a pre-pandemic level. About opening our doors and welcoming people back. While our digital doors never closed, our in-person offerings were limited, and we worked diligently to bring back beloved programs like storytimes. We continued the work of upholding our promise to voters by increasing access to materials and technology through our Library of Things. We also have been working to diversify our collection to better represent our diverse population.
The library is a place for everyone. We provide free cultural and educational programs for all ages that support a lifelong love of reading and provide a focus on literacy and informing our community. Your library card is now more powerful than ever.
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. As we emerged from the restrictions of the pandemic, we did that, providing increased opportunities for cardholders to borrow materials and use resources.
On Nov. 1, 2021, we expanded open hours in a return to our pre-pandemic hours. We again opened the Downtown Library on Sundays and both branches again offered evening hours. When added to the increased access we provided to virtual offerings, our community has more opportunities than ever.
One of the biggest impacts of pandemic restrictions was on physical visitors. In FY21 we saw just under 189,000 people in our facilities. With the loosening of rules, we saw a flood of people in FY22 that pushed our visits to 505,270. The largest gain was at the Downtown Library where visits more than doubled in a year. For perspective, before the pandemic, we had more than 1.1 million visits. While it may seem as if things are returning to normal, there is still work to be done.
During the past year we also increased registered users by 7,441. The total number of cardholders in FY22 was 112,695.
Staff participated in a variety of outreach events, including the 10-day Downtown Riverfront Festival that ran during the World Athletics Championships in July 2022 hosted at Hayward Field. Additionally, staff were at events for Juneteenth, Pride, the Asian Celebration and multiple school and neighborhood gatherings. In all, we attended 175 offsite programs.
Every day, we continue to build partnerships to increase this access. The Friends of the Eugene Public Library and Eugene Public Library Foundation are partners in this work, and recently our relationships with both Bethel and 4J school districts yielded even more opportunities for vulnerable, underserved and unhoused populations around our community.
A Place for Everyone
The library is a place for anyone, and a few policy shifts make this even more true now. In May 2022, we announced the library would no longer charge overdue fines and any existing fines were removed from accounts. This follows the move in 2020 when we stopped charging overdue fines for children’s and teen items.
The risk of incurring those fines also led people to borrow fewer items or not use our services at all.
“Eugene Public Library’s mission is to make books and other items and services easily available to the community,” Library Director Will O’Hearn said. "Overdue fines can get in the way. Plus, the fines can easily add up, especially for anyone already facing financial challenges.”
In another expansion, we now issue free cards to all children from birth to kindergarten in 4J and Bethel school districts, even if they live outside city limits. Since 2020 all students have been able to receive a free card, and this expansion waives the usual nonresident fee. This increased access to 1,200 students and 460 young children combined.
Total circulation increased by nearly 1 million from 1.64 million to 2.57 million. A big reason for this was the implementation of auto-renewals. Automatically renewing an item increases access and equity because it allows people who can’t make it to the library regularly to keep materials until they are finished with them.
All three locations saw large increases in circulation, with the Downtown Library doubling from FY21 to FY22.
Books and resources make up just a part of what Eugene Public Library offers. As we emerged from pandemic restrictions, it was our free, diverse programming that people were eager to see return. We were eager to bring back programs that served kids, teens and adults, and to provide the many onsite services that our community values.
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 Hub equipment and sustain the increased offsite delivery of programs and the Library Van.
While we have not yet reached pre-pandemic program numbers, we made significant progress with an increase from 345 events in FY21 to 580 in FY22. Attendance at these programs also approached pre-2020 levels, going from 5,761 to 17,228.
The library took a phased approached to reintroducing programming to account for temporarily limited staff capacity. In-person storytimes made a joyous return, much to the excitement of families around the community. Our preschool programming went from 52 to 320 events and attendance just from those events leaped from 766 to 10,755. During the pandemic, connections for small children were lost, and we were thrilled to bring back this critical piece of early literacy.
Our young adult offerings also more than doubled to 836, continuing a trend of the library engaging teens by focusing on meeting them where they are and providing safe areas for them to hang out in our spaces.
In FY21, we began circulating maker kits to allow the community to learn about and use maker tools and technology in their own homes. We continued to build on this extremely popular service and expand our maker experiences for the community by providing even more items like 360-degree cameras, button makers, lap looms, slide scanners and more.
A Eugene Public Library card provides opportunities to check out a wide variety of tools, toys and other items for learning, creativity and fun. From cameras to sewing machines to robotics kits, our Library of Things offers ways to explore new interests, to learn new skills or to borrow instead of buying.
We’re expanding the Library of Things to include many new items and whole new categories, and we also listen to the public about what they would like to see available for checking out.
The Library of Things builds off other popular initiatives such as the Wi-Fi hotspot loan program and the seed library. The Library of Things collection was one response to pandemic restrictions in our efforts to fulfill our levy promise of maker opportunities. It’s all about providing access and training to things that someone might use just once or see as too cost-prohibitive to own.
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.
As things began to open back up, we increased our computer access 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 distant loved ones, being able to log on to the web is an important part of life in 2022. The total number of computer sessions in FY22 was 52,479, up from 12,481 in FY21.
One important way we did this was by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot borrowing program. To determine feasibility, Eugene Public Library Foundation first sponsored a pilot project with additional support from Eugene Metro Rotary and partner agencies First Place Family Center, White Bird and 15th Night. Following the success of the trial run, the 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.
Our overall collection grew to 1,600,286 items. We increased digital offerings from 793,485 to 1.13 million, while reducing our physical collection by approximately 9,000 items.
The library collection is ever-evolving. Staff monitor the use of materials and work to replace items that fall out of circulation with ones that diversify and enhance the collection. It’s no longer just about adding to the collection but diversifying titles to align with the interests of the community.
One example is an effort to purchase more items from Native American book publishers and other independent publishers who focus on people of color. This is important not only to reflect the cultures of the people whose land we occupy but to uplift the stories of Indigenous folks throughout the Pacific Northwest, the United States and Canada. These stories historically were often not told or told through a white lens. Bringing in voices and views of Indigenous creators allows for the full story to be shared and for everyone to have a deeper understanding of Native cultures and struggles. Crucially, this isn’t just telling the stories of their past, but the stories of now, respecting Native people and their rightful place in current society.
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 2022 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.
City Council Work Session: December 14, 2022 - Year 1 Levy Report Presentation
Regular updates will be posted here on the Library’s website. Printable pdf files are provided below.