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Library Levy Campaign Books Into Action

Campaign season is well under way for the presidential election. Locally, candidates for Eugene City Council and mayor, and Lane County Board of Commissioners are starting to declare themselves. 

But those elections and campaigns are still taking shape, while here in Eugene, a campaign has launched for a Nov. 3 special election: the library levy.

Vote Yes! for Libraries has kicked off its campaign. Measure 20-235 would add $2.7 million a year, for five years, to the library’s operating budget. 

According to campaign director Carol Hildebrand, a retired librarian on the board of directors of the Eugene Public Library Foundation, the need for fundraising came about because back in 2006, the Eugene City Council decided not to ask the public for an operating levy as it had done in the past, saying the city budget could support the services. Then the great recession hit in 2008-2009.

The campaign says the cost to support the library would be about $36 per year for the typical Eugene property owner. Vote Yes! has raised almost $16,000 for the campaign so far, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. 

EW has heard that there will be at least one statement in opposition to the campaign in the Voters’ Pamphlet.

Hildebrand says that the levy has three elements: adding hours, increasing free programming and increasing digital materials and technology.

She says that the levy would add 22 hours a week back to the neighborhood libraries at Sheldon and Bethel and restore Sunday morning hours at the downtown Eugene Public Library. More hours means less crowding, she says.

According to Hildebrand, the levy fees would increase the free programming for people of all ages, from little kids to adults, and allow the library to get into “maker technology,” including setting up 3D printers, which she says would be good for small business as well as educational for children.

Finally, the money would add back to the books and materials budget. One idea would be to get what Hildebrand calls a “vending machine” for laptops at the neighborhood libraries. Lack of space means the libraries can’t add more desktop machines, but instead patrons could check out laptops and work at them and desks and areas in the library. Inside Higher Ed says such machines are being used successfully at universities and public libraries and can cost around $30,000 from the company LaptopsAnytime, not including the laptops themselves. 

Hildebrand says when the patron turns the laptop back in, the machine wipes its memory. 

She says the hope and plan is for the city budget to continue to support the library as it is, and the new levy would make the library better. 

She says the city did a survey in the spring, which showed “strong support for making the library accessible to more people.” In July, the Lindholm Company did a survey asking 200 likely voters if they would support the levy. Eighty percent said yes.

Endorsers of Measure 20-235 include Mayor Kitty Piercy, Commissioner Pete Sorenson, 4J School Board members and several state senators and representatives. For more information go to voteyesforlibraries.org. — Camilla Mortensen