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Library Board Approves Budget, Author Audrey Niffenegger Speaks Out

Board agreed to cut one position, restore a day of service to the branches.

The Evanston Library Board voted Monday night to restore a day of service to the branch libraries, allowing them to remain open five days a week instead of four, at a cost of $46,645.  The vote brought the total library budget for FY11 to $3.9 million.

Board Member Susan Stone said the move wasn't about adding services, but restoring them.

"We're not adding, we're just getting back what we need," Stone said.

In a discussion of ways to reduce the overall budget, the board decided against a plan to open the main branch library later and/or close it earlier.  The move would overwork library staff and prevent local groups from using library facilities for early or late meetings, board members said.

"If the library board continues to see legitimacy in cutting services," said Board Member Gail Bush, "then I think that's sending a message that this board accepts and tolerates a diminution of library services to the Evanston community."

The board did vote to cut one thing: a full-time position for an outreach coordinator that has not been filled since July 2008.  Cutting the position will save $58,274 in the FY11 budget, which is a shortened budget year of only 10 months, putting the city budget in line with the calendar year.

Voting to open the Main Library at 10 a.m. Monday-Saturday, an hour later than normal, and close at 8 p.m., an hour earlier, would have saved a combined $84,996 if approved.

Prior to the vote, Evanston residents spoke in support of the branch libraries.

Evanston native Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, spoke out against potential service cuts at the branch libraries.

"Think of your libraries as just a part of your schools," Niffenegger said. "Don't be silly, keep them open."

Six-year-old Leila Cornyn read a written statement to the board, telling them she enjoys the library services such as nice librarians and a scavenger hunt with prizes.  "The library's fun no matter what," she said.

Lonson Williams October 06, 2010 at 12:33 AM
Also, Jessica, the story makes it seem like Audrey Niffenegger is a resident of Evanston. I'd never heard of her, so googled her and according to an interview with her from The Independent of London, she lives in Chicago. So saying that "Prior to the vote, Evanston residents spoke in support of the branch libraries..." and then straight away quoting Niffenegger makes it seem like she lives in Evanston. I'm not sure how having carpetbaggers coming here telling us how to spend tax dollars will wash with most Evanstonians!
Kevin O'Connor October 06, 2010 at 01:15 AM
I would like to comment on Mr. Williams 2 statements: 1) " It is really irresponsible to keep the redundant libraries open." The Library is one system, not 3 disparate entities. The Library's mission is to serve all citizens & all wards in Evanston, however due to this City Council (and previous Councils), the Library funding has been decimated over many years. Thanks to the current Library Board & the tireless volunteerism by the largest single grass roots community group in the modern history of Evanston, the Library will again be something that all Evanston residents & non Evanston residents can take pride in. Remember, that residents of other communities have rights to use the Evanston Library as we have rights to use their libraries. 2) As for "carpetbaggers coming here telling us how to spend tax dollars will wash with most Evanstonians!" all one can say to that is: If there is a majority of Evanstonians against Ms. Niffenegger speaking last night or against funding the Library properly, please show up and speak your opinion(s) at the Library Board meeting or the recently concluded Citizen's Budget Workshops. I didn't see such support at these meetings. As for "carpetbaggers", let's address the real culprits: How about the greedy out of town developers, connected lawyers, out of town bond salesmen who made off with our tax dollars from the TIF districts & continue to receive tax dollars from the Economic Development Committee. Scapegoating the Library is diversionary
Lori Keenan October 06, 2010 at 01:46 AM
Ms. Niffinegger is a best-selling author who grew up going to the North Branch library on Central Street. She doesn't currently live here, no, but was speaking about the importance of libraries to the children of Evanston. When the library's budget was first threatened, she wrote to EPL Friends, "I grew up near the Central Street branch of the Evanston Library and I am not too happy to imagine it closing down. My mom took us there every week, we got to take home a stack of exciting books; it was my introduction to the whole concept of libraries. We could walk there from home. The experience made me a life-long library user. It seems very short-sighted to solve temporary budget problems with drastic solutions that benefit no one."
Lonson Williams October 06, 2010 at 02:44 AM
Kevin, Interesting comments. If the Library administration and the Library Board can't figure out a way "to serve all citizens & all wards in Evanston" within the context of the city's budget constraints, they clearly lack the competence to deal with the reality of stagnant and declining revenue streams in the context of a severe economic recession. The library board's decision to increase spending without the support of city council is reckless. You shouldn't equate people who have the time and leisure to show up at meetings with the actual public sentiment over the library board's incompetence. We happen to live in a representative democracy where we vote for individuals to represent our interests in the affairs of policy. The actual elected officials in Evanston had a different set of budgetary priorities than the unaccountable, unrepresentative library board. It is the library board's end around of Evanston's democratic institutions which is the problem. What we have now is basically a random group of unaccountable people with tax authority.
Kevin O'Connor October 06, 2010 at 08:57 PM
Mr. Williams, I'm glad you found my comments interesting, however, I'm sorry my comments did not give you cause to reconsider your narrow focus on the Library only and look into the relevant question (ie: the big picture) as to how the City of Evanston has ended up bankrupt. I will make a couple of more comments concerning your latest post. The Library Administration & Board have taken and continue to take steps to serve " all the citizens & all the wards in Evanston." Along with the unprecedented volunteerism shown by the community at large, we will work continually to have a Library that all citizens can be proud of again. As for the City Council & previous Councils, they didn't seem to care enough about the Library to properly fund it during the "fat" years. It's interesting that you don't care to debate the fiscal recklessness of this & previous Councils that resulted in our fiscal mess. Every city has to deal with the recession, but if you do your homework you will see that in pension liabilities & TIF giveaways Evanston is at the top of comparable cities. I don't know anyone that has the "time & leisure" to attend the meetings, I believe the proper words are "prioritize & sacrifice". Speaking of accountability, have you protested the budget deficits of 9.3 million last FY, 3.5 million deficit this FY, 225 million dollar unfunded pension liabilties currently to this elected Council? It's ironic that you criticize those that attend meetings, yet have time to post 2x.

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