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How budget cuts might affect Eugene Public Library services

The Eugene Public Library is adjusting to reductions in its operating budget.
Rachael McDonald
The Eugene Public Library is adjusting to reductions in its operating budget.

As a result of the City of Eugene’s recent budget process, the library is facing a reduction in its coffers. KLCC’s Rachael McDonald spoke with Dana Fleming, executive director of the Eugene Public Library Foundation to find out what library services might be affected.

There are 12 positions total that are being eliminated that were currently vacant, that the library will not be able to hire to fill. And so that is going to definitely increase the workload for the current staff. And it's also going to bleed into other areas, like our shorter turnaround time, if new books come in just getting those processed, and on the floor, processing holds.

And also programming: There won't be as many employees to do the programming and there won't be as much money to purchase materials for programming. And so that will definitely be impacted too, especially in areas where it's outside the walls of the library outreach. One of the things that they do that's really popular is a computer skills class at Eugene mission. And that might have to go that by the wayside.

Part of the budget shortfall has to do with a loss of funds from the federal government that came during the pandemic. And the other thing about the pandemic is it affected library services so that the library wasn't able to provide as many programs. And it seems like, now, everyone's so eager to kind of go back to normal. And this maybe is making that more challenging.

Yes, the staff was super excited about scaling back up to pre-pandemic levels. They were really stoked about getting the public back in and interacting with them beyond just, you know, checking out books. Another thing that will probably be impacted is the really new and popular library of things where you can check out a metal detector, you can check out a cake pan shaped like a turkey, board games. There are so many things like that, that the public is really clamoring to access, and it also reduces waste. And it's just a very, very Eugene kind of thing.

And not having enough staff to kind of cycle through those very popular items and get them right back out on the floor, not having as much money to purchase as many of the library things, materials. Also, who will acutely feel this, will be youth and families, some of the youth-oriented resources, they're not going to be as available either, and they will not be able to replenish those as easily.

Just kind of looking at the big picture in terms of the library's role in our community. Because I think for a lot of people, I mean, myself, I use the library to check out books and sometimes other things, but usually it's books, usually it's new books, but I know for a lot of people a library is a place to have find community place to feel safe. You know, certainly for families, it's a place to learn and become a book lover, so can you talk a little bit about just how the role of libraries, how important it is for our community?

Yeah, not even just in Eugene. But across the United States, libraries have become a place beyond just a repository for books and knowledge. In Eugene specifically, we’re the only place where folks can find respite from smoke, heat, cold during the day.

And I always say librarians did not probably anticipate that they weren't going into library science to also be crisis managers and social workers and all the other hats that they wear while they are working. There are a lot of things going on inside the library that we don't even know about, or we don't even think about, but it is so many things to so many people, and especially the ones who really, really need it. All people, no matter who you are, you're welcome in the library.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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