After a 76-year stay at its current location, the Evanston Public Library's South Branch will likely have to close or find a new home, come March 1.
The fallout from this news coupled with the search for a potential interim location dominated the conversation at Thursday night's Evanston Library Board of Trustees' meeting, held in the Main Branch's Barbara Friedberg Storytelling Room.
"Our lease is up and … we learned about 10 days ago that the landlord has another prospective tenant," said board member Dona Gerson. "It has [been there] a very long time and the community is adjusted to that as a branch library. So I don't want to see it become nothing. I don't want it to just disappear."
Gerson introduced the issue, calling for library staff and board members to begin scouting locations that could support a provisional branch.
This new challenge comes amid financial woes for the library system.
At a special budget discussion held Wednesday, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz openly called for the closure of both the North and South Branch libraries by Feb. 28, suggesting funding be channeled solely towards the Central Branch. However, Evanston's City Council voted instead to give the Library Board autonomy on how to allocate funds budgeted for them in 2011.
But this means the Board of Trustees will have to make some tough decisions in time for their Dec. 8 budget meeting.
"It's not really going to possible, without significant structural changes, to maintain the North Branch [and] to maintain some interim South or West Branch with the money we have," said Paul Gottschalk, administrative service manager for the Evanston Public Library.
While no one outright opposed Gerson's call to search for an interim branch, some voiced that the problem had to be viewed as part of a larger issue, involving the library's long-term future.
"We have to embark on a long range planning process," said Christopher Stewart, board president. "The visioning committee that the board created last meeting is going to consist of…people from a broad spectrum of Evanston's community. It's just to really lay out a vision for the future of EPL."
Gerson worried that action would not come soon enough.
"I think there is a very real possibility [there might be some period where the South Branch temporarily ceases operations] because there's not a lot of time to find a property that we can use," Gerson said. "The rent was very low [on the old lease], so I think it's going to be hard for us to find something within our budget."
Some potential interim locations suggested at the meeting included a space north of Main Street on Sherman Avenue, a spot near the intersection of Main Street and Chicago Avenue, and a long vacant building at 834 Cluster St.
The issue will be framed as a discussion on the agenda for the Dec. 8 meeting.