Evanston PL Begins New Fiscal Year with Branches Intact
City council backs away from closure plan for next six months
Lynn Blumenstein -- Library Journal, 03/02/2010
- Citizens must come up with funds after six months
- Two part-time branches will cost $164,000
- BranchLove formed to organize volunteers, fundraising
March 1 began a new fiscal year for Evanston Public Library (EPL), one that still includes two branch libraries, at least for the next six months.
In response to public opposition over a city plan to close the library’s only two branches, city council members voted 5-4 last month to fund another six months of their existence. That amounts to approximately $164,000, EPL director Mary Johns told LJ.
Future funding must be raised by library supporters, city councilors said, with a deadline of September 1 to muster the money. (Photo from BranchLove)
City deficit spurs branch closure plan
Evanston (pop. 78,000), a Chicago suburb and home to Northwestern University, is suffering from a $9.5 million budget deficit. The branch closures would have saved the city approximately $292,000 annually, according to the Daily Northwestern.
As of March 1, branch hours were reduced from 44 to 33 a week. Johns declined to tell LJ exactly how many positions and dollars have been lost owing to recent budget cuts. But as staff already had been reduced by unfilled vacancies, no more layoffs will occur, she said.
EPL has an endowment and its foundation conducts an annual fund drive to supplement the library’s collection budget. The library board chose not to tap the endowment to maintain the branch budget.
BranchLove steps into funding gap
Evanston citizens have responded to the challenge by creating BranchLove, which is pursuing a nonprofit organizational status. It already has raised $27,000 toward future branch operating costs, BranchLove spokesperson Lori Keenan told LJ. The group has generated more than 2000 signatures on a petition aimed to preserve the branches.
A recent volunteer kickoff meeting attracted 70 people despite a snowstorm, she said. They formed committees based on their professional expertise, such as community outreach and grant writing.
"We want to legitimize our efforts" by working with the library board to rejuvenate a lapsed Friends organization, said Keenan. [Update 3/5/10: BranchLove is now known as Evanston Public Library Friends.] The group will offer charter memberships to families for only $25, half off the previous amount, but is free through National Library Week, April 11-17.
Whatever happens, "we’ll persevere," said Johns. The demonstration of such support is "one of the greatest compliments that we can have," she said.