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First Step Towards the Future for the Evanston Public Library

The Evanston Library Board spent Wednesday night's meeting discussing ways to improve Evanston's library system.

It was back to business as usual at the Evanston Library Board of Trustee’s first meeting of the new fiscal year, Wednesday evening.

For the past four months, of charged at the monthly gatherings. and , board members turned their eyes towards the extended future.

When a motion to fund the staffing and rewiring of a potential South Branch location failed at last month’s Feb. 23 meeting, the board’s logic was that it must refuse any one-time funding sources to better and more responsibly create a long-term blueprint for the future of Evanston’s library system.

Wednesday night’s meeting was designated chiefly to laying down the framework and methods that will be used to research and formulate that eventual plan.

The planning process will consist of data gathering, talks with the Evanston community, and a good amount of analysis, said Paul Gottschalk, administrative service manager for the Evanston Public Library.

“It’s really intended to get a good sense of what the community’s needs are,” Gottschalk sad. “So it’s not so much library specific, but ‘what are the major issues you see in Evanston?’ And we’ll look and see how the library and other partners can work to solve them [in ways] that are consistent with our mission.”

The board will look at demographics and trends from the 2010 census, inspect local school district documents and evaluate Evanston’s role in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's long-term regional Go To 2040 plan, all to gain insights on how the library might more effectively serve the community.

Additionally, the board hired Miriam Pollack and Associates, a Northbrook based consulting firm with a history of working with library systems, as an outside consultant to provide and unbiased assessment of the library’s long term plans.

By the end of the month, Pollack aims to have interviewed seven key community members and held nine focus groups.

Seven of these focus groups will target specific communities within Evanston, with separate meetings for “the African American community, the Hispanic community, the business community, local educators and literacy advocates, local cultural organizations, volunteers and teens associated with the Evanston Public Library and social service providers. Fifteen to 18 individual from each community will be invited to participate in the hope that at least eight to 10 will show for the study.

Another two focus groups will exist as public forums. Both will be held on April 27, the first at the from 2 to 4 p.m., the second at the from 6 to 8 p.m.

Pollack also plans to gain additional information during interview at the library’s staff development day and through a general online survey.

Gottschalk described the process as taking “a fresh, open look” at the Evanston library system as a whole while analyzing trends of library systems nationwide to identify initiatives that both meet key objectives and save dollars.

Though talks surrounding the planning process were generally positive, board member Lynette Murphy questioned whether 10 individuals from any given community were enough to constitute a sufficient sample size, noting that results might be skewed and voices left unheard in some of Evanston’s broad, diverse communities. She also inquired whether adult education issues would be discussed during these forums.

The board aims to finish the planning process by “late summer,” likely sometime in August before voting on the 2012 budget.

Wednesday’s meeting also marked the last for Dona Gerson, who will step down from her position after six years on the board. Currently, no one has been appointed to fill her position.

The next Evanston Library Board of Trustees meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 20.

Kit Sullivan March 17, 2011 at 05:03 PM
It will be interesting to see how they choose people to interview - will they be directed by the Library Board or will be be somehow unbiased? Also, having meetings at the Levy Center and at the Main Library on a Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon means that those who are not able to go outside of their own neighborhood because of disability or those who have to work for a living are disenfranchised. Typical! Way to go, Library Board! No wonder the citizens have to band together and form their own library branch - er, twig.

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