Two years after the South Branch Library closed, the Evanston Public Library has reopened a branch location in south Evanston, at 900 Chicago Ave.
Library staff and materials have moved into the location formerly operated by The Mighty Twig, a library that was run on a volunteer basis by the Evanston Public Library Friends after the South Branch closed.
“Slowly but surely, we’re re-becoming a branch,” said library clerk Jennifer Hiltwein, who checked out books and DVDs to a steady stream of patrons on Wednesday afternoon.
Volunteers from the Friends group started The Mighty Twig at 900 Chicago Ave. just a month after city officials closed the South Branch, citing a lack of funding. Evanston Public Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons, who took over in April 2012, began negotiating with the Friends last August to operate the space.
The library's initial plan calls for the city to fund staffing and operations at the branch, with the remaining budget (including rent and utilities) to come from fundraising dollars. The Mighty Twig officially closed in late December, and the space was shut down for a month while Evanston Public Library staff moved in materials. It reopened Jan. 12 as the Chicago Ave./Main St. Branch.
Much of the collection consists of children’s books, but there is also a wide range of DVDs, a selection of newspapers and periodicals and some adult nonfiction and fiction novels. Small tables are set up on a large rug for children’s play, and the Evanston Public Library Friends donated five wide-screen Mac computers that are set up along the front window for patrons to use.
Children’s librarian Laura Antolin said the reception to the branch’s opening has been very positive. On Wednesday, there were several kids with caregivers or parents, as well as adults who came to use the computers.
“I think a lot of the regulars from the neighborhood are starting to come back,” she said.
One of those regulars is Lou Melnick, who has lived in south Evanston for the past 45 years. Melnick said he was disappointed when the South Branch Library closed, and surprised that library officials said they didn’t have the funds to operate it.
“I didn’t understand why a library like that doesn’t have support,” he said.
The fact that the library has re-opened a south branch location is “excellent,” he added, picking up a copy of the New York Times.
Patrons can check out books and DVDs, pick up library items on hold from other locations and request materials at 900 Chicago Ave. There is also free storytelling for children, held Tuesday through Friday at 10:30 a.m. Librarians say there will be more programs and materials coming soon.
The Chicago Ave./Main St. Branch is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.