Evanston residents and South Branch Library staff members commemorated the branch's closing Thursday with refreshments, storytelling, Irish music, crafts for children and a slide show. The branch will close permanently on Saturday after being open since 1917.
At the open house, residents and staff members exchanged their favorite memories about the library. “For 34 years I worked at the North Branch and on occasion I filled in here and worked,” said Muriel Schwartz, a previous library branch assistant. “Priscilla and I did the puppet shows and she created the sets.”
Residents and staff members said they are sad to say goodbye to the branch. “We moved here so I could walk to the library,” said Evanston resident Barbara Lewis. “It’s the only reason we moved here.”
Like Lewis, Alberto Ayala favors the South Branch over other libraries. Though Ayala lives in Chicago, he chooses to consistently use the South Branch. “It is a sad thing to see it go,” he said. “The worst part about it is that they’re not putting a new one in the area. This part of town needs a library.”
The Evanston Public Library Board decided they did not have enough funds in their budget to maintain the South Branch in the 2011 fiscal year. The .
“The South Branch has been open for 95 years, through the Great Depression. And don’t you think that if it got through the Depression it could get through the recession?” Lewis said.
But the Evanston Public Library Friends is doing everything in their power to maintain a library presence in the southern part of Evanston. EPLF published a letter to South Branch patrons explaining its plan of action once the library officially closes.
According to the letter, written by President Ellen Newcomer, the group is opening a new EPLF Reading-Internet Room at 900 Chicago Ave. that will open in mid-March. The reading-Internet room be staffed by volunteers and will have a large collection of donated books, magazines, and other reading materials.
“This was my library, my children’s library, and later when I started working for the library it’s where I worked,” Library Branch Assistant Gail Mitchell said. “It’s a sad part of the town to lose because part of Evanston’s history is gone.”