When I thought about touring a library, I considered the options both near and further from my home and the library I work in. The last time I did a technology tour, I went to the Eugene Public Library, which is vastly different than my home and work library. It was an interesting comparison to visit a library much closer in terms of size and community needs.
Both communities are certainly diverse. Newport is a mixture of a fishing town with local marine scientists, government workers, and the service industry melding into one. There is a high poverty rate and one thing the library does to combat the low literacy rates that seem to be tied into poverty levels is administer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to get books into the hands of children. In the 19 years that Sheryl Eldridge has worked at the Newport Public Library, she has seen the community change and grow. She has worked to keep up and establish a strong culture of literacy, including the Newport Reads program, which started in 2006. This year’s selection is, “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery.
The Eugene Public Library was large, modern, and had access to innovative technology in their makerspaces. There were many staff members and a large number of access points both physically and digitally. A complex automation system functioned behind the scenes and a strong technology plan was in place for growth into the future. The Newport Public Library is mid-size, older and cozy with technology in place to meet the community needs. There is not an automation system and a less formal technology plan, but the library service is just as strong as the larger program in Eugene.
The incorporation of Spanish language materials in Newport speaks to the recognition of the community at large as this comparison highlights. In Eugene budget was spent on the passive technology programming of the Makerspace areas, while Newport chooses to focus on more active programming. There is also a difference in the feeling of the social media sites as Eugene’s presence was controlled at a higher level and in the marketing department and Newport’s feels just like it’s library, more organic and personal.
With all of this being said, I think both libraries are doing great things in their communities. They recognize the needs and where the resources are best allocated and then they charge ahead with enthusiasm and vigor. There is a excitement behind the scenes in Newport and a refusal to be complacent. The technology services provided, as well as those under consideration, are given thoughtful review and evaluation.
Thank you to the Newport Public Library and to Librarian Sheryl Eldridge for hosting me and my many questions. I appreciate the amount of time and energy put into sharing everything going on at the Newport Public Library.