In the midst of the city’s budget crisis, the Library Journal rated Eugene Public Library a three-star library. The journal looks per capita at circulation, visits, program attendance and public internet terminal use and ranks libraries across the U.S according to their budget class. By the Library Journal’s metrics, a three-star rating equates to being in the top 3 percent of a library’s budget class in terms of cost-effectiveness.
Connie Bennett, the library’s director, says the library continues to look into ways that it can be cost-effective, such as analyzing improvements to the library’s decade-old, 24-hour automated book return system. It requested information from various companies last year. “We’ve done some modifications to it over the years, and it operates much faster than it did when it was initially installed,” she says, though it sometimes requires scheduled maintenance such as oiling ball bearings, and sometimes its belt jams. Funding for any rebuild to the system wouldn’t come from the city’s General Fund, which has a projected $5 million shortfall. Capital funding in the library’s tentative FY15 budget has a placeholder item of $750,000, which Bennett says will be “more than enough.”
While Bennett adds that she wouldn’t describe the book return system as prone to breakdowns, she says it’s an important piece of equipment to maintain correctly. “The book return system is one that is essential to getting those items back in the library and getting them back to be reshelved,” she says. “Otherwise people couldn’t find them and check them out again. The way that you see whether that’s working is in the three million checkouts per year.”
Of the Library Journal’s metrics, Bennett says she hopes that the organization adds more modern categories in the future. “Things like hits on library websites, use of Wi-Fi in libraries or digital checkouts of downloadable, digital media, eBooks and things like that,” she says, “three things which I think Eugene would do really well in.”