Eugene libraries face cuts: 'We need to fund our budget gaps'

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Budget Committee is tasked with finding ways to bridge the city's $2.5 million deficit, and officials say they welcome hearing the public's opinion on plans to handle the gap.

Among the proposed cuts put forward by the committee are reductions in park maintenance, government travel expenses and library services.

"We don't want to do that to any of our services, but we are in a situation where we need to fund our budget gaps and need to find ways to close that," said city manager John Ruiz.

Eugene Public Library Director Connie Bennett said in order to keep the Bethel library branch open, they will close the downtown branch Sunday morning.

That option concerned some Eugene residents, like library-goer Marcellus Arellano.

"Sunday is a day of rest for a lot of people and it's the only time they have to go to the library. So if they cut it in half, it would inconvenience a lot of people," said Arellano.

Representatives wanted to change the hours because they say Sunday is the quietest time in the downtown library.

"Yes, we do have people using the building Sundays. It's close to that average of 3,000 a day, but most of them come after noon," said Bennett.

The fate of the Sheldon Branch is not as certain, however.

"We will be using our savings account to keep that open. Hopefully to give the community a chance to perhaps work on a library levy," said Ruiz.

That's a funding strategy Eugene has adopted in the past.

"In fact, both the (Sheldon and Bethel) branches were established with levy funding that the citizens voted for," said Bennett.

The budget committee will meet three times next month at the Lane County Services Building. Officials say anyone interested in adding to their discussion is encouraged to attend, however you can submit written comments by mail or on their website.