Viewpoint: Focus support on main library

As a resident of Evanston, I hear various opinions about library services and I have decided to join the debate.
I write this to encourage everyone to consider very carefully how public monies are spent during this period of economic stress and to encourage everyone to make full use of our wonderful Evanston Public Library at 1703 Orrington Ave.
I live in north Evanston and have noticed that some people have signs (provided by the organization Evanston Public Library Friends) on their property, which say "Libraries Yes" or "Save Our Branch Library."
I think that Evanston Public Library is a great asset to Evanston and am pleased to see expressions of support.
The grassroots organization EPL Friends has expressed passionate feelings about library service and works with determination on its project, The Mighty Twig. The EPL Friends website states that they have more than 3,000 family memberships; that's about 19 percent of the 15,952 families reported by the 2000 Census. I am not a member of EPL Friends, so I am giving just one opinion from among the other 81 percent.
What I see on the EPL Friends website presents a limited view of what constitutes a desirable library and that approach limits their access to good library service.
The support expressed by EPL Friends is focused too narrowly on neighborhood library access, which suggests a lack of appreciation for the EPL main library. EPL Friends have presented their views clearly, which I respect; however I want to present another point of view for your consideration.
EPL Friends refer affectionately to the "branch library" at 2026 Central St. as "our library". It is a romantic and nostalgic notion to support the local library, but that is not a library worthy of this community. I do not use the Central Street facility, because it falls far short of what we want and need from our libraries in America in the 21st Century.
In many small villages in developing countries, that part-time room on Central Street would indeed be their library. In Evanston, we strive for a higher level of library access. Adults seek access to significant information resources and professional assistance.
This is a community which values quality education and has excellent schools. The EPL main library has collections for children of all ages which nicely supplement what they learn in the classroom. Therefore, people should value and make full use of the facilities, the services of the library staff, and the print and electronic resources of the EPL main library at 1703 Orrington Ave. That is "our library".
EPL Friends stress the convenience of having a room (even part-time) in close proximity to their homes, but of course such a benefit applies to only a few residents, the rest of us live farther away.
Evanston has excellent public transportation which quickly takes one to the wonderful EPL main library building at 1703 Orrington Ave., which was opened in 1994, to provide superior library resources, facilities, and services, which are underutilized if people do not avail themselves of those valuable resources.
I'm not advocating taking anything of value away from people, but those who fear the loss of that facility on Central Street are shortchanging themselves. I (and apparently most others) appreciate and use the modern up-to-date American quality library service, which is available at EPL main library.

EPL Friends put a lot of emphasis on a facility for children and their experimental reading station The Mighty Twig is a nice project, which is worthy of their efforts.
However, parents (individually or as groups) should also be aware of the benefits of the facilities and staff of EPL, where they will have access to a wonderful collection of professionally selected children's books and other resources, a professional staff with expertise in assisting children, and special areas for group sessions. That is where a child will gain an understanding and appreciation for everything that a first class library experience can provide.
A friends of the library group works for the library to support its services and enhance its budget. The name EPL Friends is somewhat deceptive, because one has to read their website carefully to ascertain that none of the money which they raise is given to EPL; it is all used for their own activities, such as The Mighty Twig.
But such fund raising ought not be done using the name of EPL, if there is no operational connection with the library administration. EPL has its own Fund for Excellence donor program, so care must be taken to avoid confusion with EPL Friends fund raising.
I agree with the sentiment "Library Yes". Evanston ought to maximize the effectiveness of its financial support for library services by focusing on EPL main library to ensure that our excellent library maintains its quality resources and services, where the residents of Evanston can all come together as a community.
Library Yes!
Evanstonian Thomas Mann lives at 2522 Central St.
Top: The third-floor reading room in the Evanston Public Library at 1703 Orrington Ave.

Comments

If only...

If only the Main Library were a "modern, up to date, quality library service"...sigh. Sadly, our library system has been underfunded for years and every other library in the area runs circles around ours. Our per capita expenditure is less than half of many neighboring communities. Yes, the "Central Street facility falls short of what we want and need for a 21st Century library," but so does the Main Library, unfortunately.  Creating a Friends organization to help fundraise and advocate for better services will help. 
EPL Friends have created a grassroots organization where none existed to support the Evanston Public Library -- Our mission statement: Evanston Public Library Friends is an independent, community-based organization dedicated to strengthening Evanston Public Library’s innovation, leadership and neighborhood outreach.
For many, Thomas, the library that is accessible is the one that works for the people in our community. The elderly and children in particular. When's the last time you loaded a few toddlers on public transportation and traveled across town to the Main Library and got them all home before nap time in 18 inches of snow? Once there, was it fun looking for a book for yourself and four children in two different rooms on two separate floors? 
EPL Friends has funded the EPL system with hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep two libraries open when threatened with closure. We partnered with the Lions Club of Evanston for Candy Day and all funds were given to EPL. Our many fundraising efforts support the programs of EPL as well as our own neighborhood outreach and we will continue to strive to deliver the most and best services to the greatest number of people, in conjunction with the charge of the Library Board.  
It's easy to stand on the sidelines and lob criticism based on few facts and more fiction. It's much more difficult to build something from nothing and get thousands of supporters involved in an effort to promote literacy and library services. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but it's an unrealistic view of EPL Friends, our mission, and of the EPL system as a whole.  

RE: If only...

Thank you, Lori K.  Your response here echoes much of my own thoughts and feelings.

This ongoing debate about the

This ongoing debate about the Evanston library branches has become needlessly divisive and largely pointless. Evanston simply can't afford to provide local, neighborhood service for every worthwhile mission no matter how valuable it may be. No one loves, worships or cherishes books and learning more than I do. That's why we're fortunate to have a modern, up-to-date library in a central location to serve all our citizens young and old. We should concentrate as a community on making that facility the best it can be, period. Most communities of our size, even grandly wealthier ones, don't see the need for multiple branch libraries.  Neither do I.  

Is it legal....

for the Friends of the Evanston Public Library to collect money and spend it themselves rather than turning it over to EPL?  Just curious.

Copyright ownership

Regarding the legality, I'm not a lawyer, but I assume that the City of Evanston government holds copyright to the name Evanston Public Library. No one at the Civic Center seems to mind what's happening.
Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District.
I've asked my self, what would happen, if I set up a group and we called ourselves the Saviors of Soldier Field, then proceeded to raise money on our own and used the money to pave over some adjacent private land to make a parking lot for our tailgate parties. I can imagine what the previous Mayor would have done and I can't swim that well. What would the new Mayor do? Hell, he's already missing one of his own fingers!

Focus support on main library

Lori K, I find it difficult to understand some of your comments.
You lament that EPL is underfunded compared to public libraries in other communities. Then, I don't understand how anyone can prefer a small neighborhood reading room, the convenience factor notwithstanding, because it is convenient for only those few who live close to it. Siphoning money from that underfunded library budget for a neighborhood reading room only makes matters more difficult for the main library.
I still maintain that EPL is an excellent library. Sure, I'd like to see enhancements. That is why I suggest that we focus on working together in direct connection with the staff at EPL, to make certain that we don't work at cross purposes, in spite of good intentions.
Here is something, which makes EPL a great library: it is the portal for all Evanston residents to the realm of online information resources. Some of those resources are for use in the library by children as well as adults, but many are available from our homes 24/7. Now that's outreach! Those electronic resources are very expensive, but crucial for a modern library and essential for today's library users. These days one can not judge a library just by the books on its shelves.
Another problem with this neighborhood approach is: how many neighborhoods should we recognize? To be equitable about it for all neighborhoods would balkanize library services and be totally unsustainable. Isn't it better to strive to help EPL on Orrington Avenue serve us all as a united community?
You ask, "was it fun looking for a book for yourself and four children in two different rooms on two separate floors?" Yes, isn't it wonderful to have such a large library?
I like your concern for the hapless elderly, because I'm seventy one years old, with Blago's free-rides pass in my pocket, and I get around just fine, most days anyway.
It is droll that you use the specter of "18 inches of snow". I know that topples mayors in Chicago, but come on, this isn't Buffalo; we don't get that many blizzards in Evanston.
You say that EPL Friends is an independent grassroots organization but you then say that they function "in conjunction with the charge of the Library Board" (??)
You mock my opinion saying that "It's easy to stand on the sidelines and lob criticism based on few facts and more fiction ". I was standing on the sidelines, but not any more. I'm standing in the middle of it now, because I became aware of the publicity campaign which was diverting attention away from true support of EPL and urging people to be satisfied with minimal branch library services. Perhaps that campaign has gone a bridge too far. As to the "fiction", you must be confusing me with my namesake, although his writings do show perceptive understanding of the human condition.
I was not aware that the EPL Friends group which was founded in March 2010 "has funded the EPL system with hundreds of thousands of dollars". To achieve that in one year is very impressive. (Now I'm being droll.) The EPL website ought to highlight that accomplishment. When I look through their website, it appears that they are now soliciting donations of money and books to support their own activities as an independent organization. I suppose that the $11,794 of money earned from EPL book sales, which the Library Board diverted at the May 2011 meeting from support of the collections to keep the lights on in the Central Street reading room, was just payback.
We are all aware of numerous private organizations which offer day-care, pre-school learning, and other worth-while activities. However, EPL Friends is using the name of EPL while working outside of and competing with EPL. Think about this: why struggle to create in amateur fashion what is already available to everyone professionally at EPL main library?
My recommendation here is that people need to focus their attention on working directly with the staff at EPL on Orrington Avenue (not as an outside group) to continue to improve our library. I recognize the staff at EPL as running the library system. I make my opinion known, but I will not attempt to set up an alternate organization (in law enforcement that is called vigilantism), nor will I raise donations on my own.

Name confusion

There is a typo, which must have made part of my comment seem weird; here is that part of the posting with correction:
"I was not aware that the EPL Friends group which was founded in March 2010 "has funded the EPL system with hundreds of thousands of dollars". To achieve that in one year is very impressive. (Now I'm being droll.) The EPL Friends (instead of: EPL) website ought to highlight that accomplishment." Next sentence now makes sense: "When I look through their website, it appears that they are now soliciting donations of money and books to support their own activities as an independent organization."

Haters.

Thomas, I don't have time or interest in a cyber-dialog, and more negative energy so will simply leave you with this: You say, "My recommendation here is that people need to focus their attention on working directly with the staff at EPL on Orrington Avenue (not as an outside group) to continue to improve our library." 
Great idea. Tell me how you plan to do that, or what, specifically, you have done to do so, as our group has tried to do exactly that for the last 18 months. You say you are standing in the middle of it now, so good luck, and when you've done that for ten years or so, then we'll talk.
In the meantime your opinion is just that, an opinion. If you don't know about the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or can't find it on the EPL website, that's no surprise. Until we got involved, you couldn't even find the Libraries on the City's website! If you went by the EPL website for information, you'd think most of what they do is Falcons and Poetry contests.  Our logo and information were deliberately buried after someone further up the foodchain at City Hall decided we should go away. It's sad, really, given our ability to organize and fundraise, that we haven't had more cooperation, not less. 
I won't be responding again, but wish I had the time to counter all the erroneous information you have, and will probably continue to spew. You've certainly found the right forum.  As my mother says, "Don't dignify that with a response." Good luck to you in "working with the EPL staff to improve our library" -- I look forward to hearing all about your successes!
 

I Will Say What No One Is Saying

Your reply to Thomas's post is simply classless.
Title it "Haters"?
You represent the Friends of EPL in a very bad light.
Be professional, respect the man's right to express his opinion.
Surely you could have articulated your reply with a little more class.
You do your organization no good in the public eye with such posts.
I think you need a vacation from this.

One small step for Mann

"Tell me how you plan to do that, or what, specifically, you have done to do so, as our group has tried to do exactly that for the last 18 months. You say you are standing in the middle of it now, so good luck, and when you've done that for ten years or so, then we'll talk."
 
It seems to me that that Mr. Mann,  by  eloquently articulating the need to close the branch library and strengthen the Main Library, has done more to truly help the library than all of its false "Friends".
The branch libraries were diverting resources and attention away from the Main Library.  Even without the current budget problems and the collapse of the US economy, shutting them down and concentrating on Main Library would have been a good idea.
Before the Main Library can be improved, it must get its finances in order, and the Library Board must recognize its goal  - to have one good library, not two or three bad ones  - and that means no more branch library.  This 'Friends' organization  -  whose name makes it sound like it is an auxiliary to the Public Library, while it really has its own agenda - could be competing for donations with the Library.  That is perfectly legal  (to answer someone's question) as long as they are not  claiming  to be part of the Public Library system - but still has the effect of taking resources away from the Main Library.
I also disagree with the implication  that only people who have been involved in library affairs for at least years have any right to say anything.  First, this seems to be yet another manifestation of the 'Long Time Resident' syndrome that has reached almost pandemic status in Evanston.   Second, it appears that Mr. Mann has been living in and paying taxes in Evanston for several years - yet even  his opinions are deemed to be unworthy since he hasn't been a library activist for 10 years.

Clarification from Library Treasurer Allen

Clarification:
Evanston Friends group has made one donation to the Public Library in the form of a restricted gift in the amount of $108,400  in Summer of 2010 to be used only for Branch funding through February, 2011. 
The Library has not received hundreds of thousands of dollars from this group.
Diane Allen
Treasurer, Evanston Library Board of Trustees 

Kudos To Thomas!

Thank you, Thomas, for offering your cogent and reasoned thoughts on the fine asset that is Evanston's main library -- AND for pointing up the misleading practice of a group not directly connected with that institution using its name in their title.  In my conversations with fellow Evanstonians, I have found that the vast majority share your views on the relative values of the town's various library resources.  I appreciate your airing them publicly, even as they risk eliciting the rather predictable "haters" epithet.  Bravo!

I agree with Thomas Mann.

I agree with Thomas Mann.  
My grandchildren (5.5 & 4 years old) had access to both branches by virtue of where I live and their family lives.  However, they loudly voiced preference for the main library and its resources.  This has been true since they began to talk!
Let's put our efforts and funds toward EPL main!  Story reading programs available more locally is a lovely resource and requires far less funds than a fully staffed, nearly full-time facility.
Did you know??  You can volunteer time at the main library -- even a couple of hours a week are greatly appreciated and personally rewarding.
 

Elderly

Lisa K had a valid point about the elderly. I make light of it because I am one of them, but of course some folks (even some young people) can not get to EPL on Orrington. I had forgotten about the wonderful service which EPL has for people in that situation: " "Books on Wheels!" From the EPL website: "Do you know someone who loves to read, but can't make it over to the Library? Sign them up for Books on Wheels! Evanston residents of any age who have difficulty coming in because of illness or disability may receive home delivery of books, movies or music from a volunteer."

Debate

I see that this topic stirs strongly opposing opinions, but that's what a debate is supposed to do.
I believe in the usefulness of debate. I think the Ancient Greeks started it and the British are wonderful at it in their Parliament.
Debate, noun (Definition from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. (By the way, I was led to this source from the EPL website.)
1. A discussion involving opposing points; an argument.
2. Deliberation; consideration: passed the motion with little debate.
3. A formal contest of argumentation in which two opposing teams defend and attack a given proposition.
4. Obsolete Conflict; strife.
I point to definition 4, which we Americans still use all too often. We constantly feel that in a debate, if people disagree with you, you can try to silence them by calling them divisive; but stick the label on them before they put it on you.
When various sides hold firmly to their positions, debates frequently reach stalemate, but that leads to divisiveness only if there is no way to resolve the issue. We have the Library Board to resolve this debate. However, it is essential that the Board members hear from all points of view.
I take none of this personally, but of course I do respond when I want to make or clarify a point. I will forgive you if you call me divisive; just don't call me Shirley.

Show us the money

Lori, where exactly were these "hundreds of thousand of dollars" spent? I've been to some of those board meetings, and my recollection was that the Friends WALKED OUT when the Library board refused to cave to them and fund South Branch. Maybe I've missed it, but when did the Friends ever give any money to the Library that wasn't designated for one of the branches or for goofy "outposts" like the storefront at Dempster/Dodge or their own Twig project? When they have they ever given anything to support the downtown library collection? And when did the Library board "charge" them with anything?
Why are these supposed "Friends" always holding book sales right around the same time the real library book sale takes place? I'll bet a lot of people wouldn't be shopping the Friends sale this weekend if they realized it has nothing to do with the real library anymore. "Save Our  Libraries" indeed. Which libraries are you talking about?
This kind of misleading claim is what has people like Mr. Mann riled. If you're really "Friends of the Library" then support the damned library already.
 

EPL Friends or Foes

Dear Thomas, DB, and "Is it Legal,” and Show Us the Money,

   It's fine if you disagree that the city should not fund the branches.  At this point, the city is only funding one, the North Branch.   If you think the city should shut it down, it's your right to say so. 
     
  However, criticize the work of the EPL friends or imply that they are keeping money from the Evanston Library System is mean.  These people have put in countless hours and continue to do the impossible.  Lori is right. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in a little over a year.  They've built out the Mighty Twig space, filled it with computers and books, and manned it with volunteers, entirely through private funding.    They have brought volunteers to set up a summer reading game on the west side of Evanston.    My unscientific observation is that  their work has also brought more kids into the library system.  Just look at the number of summer reading game rockets and stars posted on the North Branch windows, one per kid.   It truly does look like more this year than previous years.
 
When Thomas comments that the Evanston Public Library website should acknowledge the accomplishments of the EPL Friends group, you are right!  It is a true mystery to me why the mayor, city council, library board, and city manager do not want to stand side by side with the EPL Friends group in public and thank them!   At this point, I think this debate has become personal for these parties, as well as for members of the EPL friends board.   If you have seen the EPL friend board members working on almost a daily basis, like I have when I am about town, you would understand why they are frustrated and perhaps a bit angry.  Wouldn't you be angry too if you were giving 40 hours of work or more for free to improve your community and given nothing but grief in return?   And I am not overestimating here. I don't know how some of these board members manage to have other jobs, families, and perhaps a social life with all the hours they volunteer for the libraries.      
 
Last year, I organized a Children's Lemonade for the Libraries campaign to help raise money for EPL friends.   The city shut down the first of our kid-manned stands outside the (previous) South Branch and North Branch, because we didn't have permits.   I did not realize that children needed permits to sell lemonade!   
 
The city has done nothing but stand in the way of the fundraising efforts of EPLfriends.  Why?   What is wrong with citizens putting in time, effort, and their own money into saving something that they personally value and feel is important for their children?   If you don't want to give your own money to support  EPLfriends, don't.  But something to think about-   Right now, less than .01% of the Evanston budget goes towards the library system, as a whole- Someone please correct me with the exact figures, but something like $4 of every $5,000 in property taxes goes towards the entire library system in Evanston- so that probably means that about 50 cents goes towards funding the North Branch.    Even if you don't personally use it, is it too much money to ask to help keep it open so all those hundreds of kids who are using it for the summer reading game can keep using it?  If it is, why not ask the city council/library board to accept private funding from EPL friends to help finance it?  They have offered, and have been turned away from the library board. (correct me if I'm wrong here).   It is not intentional that ELP friends isn’t “sharing” it’s money with the Evanston Public Library, the library board just wont’ take the money.  
 
If you want more information on where the EPLfriends money goes go to www.eplfriends.org     They are a bunch of really nice people trying to save something they value.   I give all my thanks to them for dealing with the grief, and continuing to put in their time to make our community better. 
 

EPL Friends or Foes

Dear Thomas, DB, and "Is it Legal,” and Show Us the Money,
   It's fine if you disagree that the city should not fund the branches.  At this point, the city is only funding one, the North Branch.   If you think the city should shut it down, it's your right to say so. 

       However, to imply that the EPL friends group is keeping money from the Evanston Library System or to criticize the work of the EPL friends group borders mean.  These people have put in countless hours and continue to do the impossible.  Lori is right. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in a little over a year to finance community resources that are open to all.  They've built out the Mighty Twig space, filled it with computers and books, and manned it with volunteers, entirely through private funding.  They paid to keep open the North Branch last year when the city threatened to shut it down.   They have brought volunteers and materials to set up a summer reading game on the west side of Evanston.    My unscientific observation is that  their work has also brought more kids into the library system.  Just look at the number of summer reading game rockets and stars posted on the North Branch windows, one per kid.   It truly does look like more this year than previous years.
 
  When Thomas comments that the Evanston Public Library website should acknowledge the accomplishments of the EPL Friends group, you are right!  It is a true mystery to me why the mayor, city council, library board, and city manager do not want to stand side by side with the EPL Friends group in public and thank them for being so passionate about books!   At this point, I think this debate has become personal for these parties, as well as for members of the EPL friends board.   If you have seen the EPL friend board members working on almost a daily basis, like I have when I am about town, you would understand why they are frustrated and perhaps a bit angry.  Wouldn't you be angry too if you were giving 40 hours of work or more for free to improve your community and given nothing but grief in return?   And I am not overestimating here. I don't know how some of these board members manage to have other jobs, families, and perhaps a social life with all the hours they volunteer for the libraries.    They are not just writing random emails in favor of the branches and calling themselves "in the middle" of the debate, they are working for the library, on a daily basis, for years.

Last year, I organized a Children's Lemonade for the Libraries campaign to help raise money for EPL friends.   The city shut down the first of our kid-manned stands outside the (previous) South Branch and North Branch, because we didn't have permits.   I did not realize that children needed permits to sell lemonade!   

  The city has done nothing but stand in the way of the efforts of EPLfriends.  Why?   What is wrong with citizens putting in time, energy, and their own money into saving something that they personally value and feel benefits their children?   If you don't want to give your own money to support  EPLfriends, don't.  But something to think about-   Right now, less than .01% of the Evanston budget goes towards the library system, as a whole- Someone please correct me with the exact figures, but something like $4 of every $5,000 in property taxes goes towards the entire library system in Evanston- so that probably means that about 50 cents goes towards funding the North Branch.    Even if you don't personally use it, is it too much money to ask to help keep it open so all those hundreds of kids who are using it for the summer reading game can keep using it?  If it is, why not ask the city council/library board to openly accept private funding from EPL friends to help finance it?   It is not intentional that EPL friends isn’t “sharing” it’s money with the Evanston Public Library, the library board just won't take the money.    We all have causes that are personal to our hearts, and if the people who love the North Branch are willing to donate our own money for it, as we are, then why not let us, and perhaps even say thank you?!   

If you want more information on where the EPLfriends money goes go to www.eplfriends.org     They are a bunch of really nice people trying to save something they value.   I give the Board Members all my thanks  for dealing with the grief, and continuing to put in their time to make our community better. 
 

Books

Where did all the books in The Mighty Twig come from?

Friends of the Mighty Twig

We all support the main library with tax dollars. I support the Mighty Twig with my donations. If the city and library board would have listened to the outcry to keep the South Branch open and respected the efforts to raise money by private donors to do so, then perhaps more members of the community would support the library differently. I love the library, and I am happy to support all libraries in any form or model in which they come.
I believe the "Friends" created their name before their efforts were forced to choose a separate model for their hard work. The Mighty Twig is a result of the hard work the community did to keep library services in the neighborhood that the South Branch once served.
Anyone who had attended the event last evening at the Mighty Twig would be impressed with the amazing work a group of passionate volunteers can do for the community. The memories my family will have at the Mighty Twig will be vastly different than our experiences at the main library. They are both wonderful; they are just different. The Mighty Twig is a great reading and community center that our family will continue to support.  Don't worry--- my tax dollars will continue to fund the public library. I just prefer to walk to my "library" and attend story times in my neighborhood.

Mighty Twig Books

This is a good question Eric.  It is my understanding that a bulk of the books came from the old South Branch.  The books that were not given to the Mighty Twig from the south branch were given away to other charities.  There was no looting of the resources of the main branch in order to supply the Mighty Twig.   All the other materials that were used were donated, as were the efforts of the architect who designed the space, the hours of the people who collected books, and the people who set up the Twig Space.   The Twig costs $154 a day to keep open, and this is all private money.   Private citizens volunteer to run everything,   Here is a list of upcoming free events, open to everyone:
   Tuesdays 10:30 songs and stories with Mr. Rick for 3-5 year olds
   Tuesdays 4PM craft hour  (ages 2-up)
     Wednesdays 10:30 All By Myself Hour (pre-K- age 7)
    Thursdays 4pm July July 14th  Cuentos por abuelo Isidro (stories in Spanish)
     Fridays 10:30  Family Story Fun (ages 3-5 and 12-36 mos with caregiver)
     Saturdays 3-4PM Through July Tail Waggin' Tutors (ages 5-15) Yes!  There are dogs.  Can the main library offer that?
     Special Events-
    Thursday  July 21st- 7PM  Adult Book Club  

The mighty twig wins!

Saturdays 3-4PM Through July Tail Waggin' Tutors (ages 5-15) Yes!  There are dogs.  Can the main library offer that?
 
Well..no..the Main Library can't offer that.  It just has a lot more books (including many new ones ), subscriptions to magazines, CD's and DVD's, and access to electronic databases, some meeting rooms,  interlibrary loan, and skilled librarians.
But no puppies.

Truth in advertsing

Jen it's great that you have so many volunteers dedicated to the Twig. But then why not raise money as "The Twig"? Why continue to use the name "Evanston Public Library Friends" which implies that you are affiliated with the Evanston Public Library, and are raising money for the Evanston Public Library when in fact you are not? All the activities at the Twig, and the book deposit collections around town are  great, but they are not the Evanston Public Library.
Whether or not the library board should have continued to support South Branch is now a moot point. they didn't, the Friends apparently chose not to continue working with the Main library, and you are now two separate organizations. Fine and dandy. But don't pretend to be something you're not. Don't use banners with "Save our Libraries" in the name when you are not collecting money for the library.

Not that unique

The Tail Waggin' Tutors program is not unique to the Twig.  North Branch had this group and their dogs there last fall and last spring.  I expect that the Main library will probably have them this year as well.  Oh, and the library outpost at Dempster/Dodge has them this summer too.

Cats in the library?

"North Branch had this group and their dogs there last fall and last spring"
 
Are cats permitted to attend too?  It seems only fair since, as Bill pointed out, cats are forced to obey leash laws in Evanston parks.  Enquiring minds want to meow. 

Friends NOT New

Ms. Keenan needs a little history. She says "EPL Friends have created a grassroots organization where none existed. . . "
Actually, the Evanston Library Friends were started in 1983, according to the history page on the library website, as a “self-sustaining organization open to all with the purpose of supporting the Library through educational, cultural, social, civic, and fund-raising activities.”
In 2003, the group had 400 members and they sponsored library programs, funded the summer reading game, and yes, advocated for branch libraries. 
They ceased operations in January 2009, according to library board minutes, due to a lack of active members.

Friends?

I have no connections with any of the people who are involved in this situation: EPL staff (except as a user of their services), EPL Friends, Library Board, city officials. I don't recall ever meeting any of them.
I'm a resident, but a lax citizen, because as has been pointed out, I was standing on the sidelines, not paying much attention to this situation. Then I saw the banner on the RTA Arnhem Bridge over Central Street, "Mega Book Sale  eplfriends.org". I thought, oh, an EPL book sale, but when I delved into the matter, I discovered the disturbing discrepancies. The more I learned, the more concerned I became.
Some people are angry with me for pointing out these problems. Pause, and take the point of view of the other: imagine how annoyed I am, when I see an organization which purports to be a friend of EPL, while it constantly expresses extreme hostility to EPL and its staff and describes its private activities as contributions to EPL. With friends like these, etc.

Semantics

Reader Rabbit, Thomas Mann, Anonymous-
This is the mission of EPL friends, off the website   "Evanston Public Library Friends is an independent, community-based organization dedicated to strengthening Evanston Public Library’s innovation, leadership and neighborhood outreach."
    I think we would very much like to be "friends" with the Public Library, and co-fundraise.    It makes me sad to continue reading blogs such as this one by Thomas Mann or replies such as yours that imply that there is something deceptive going on here.   The intention is to create more outreach for literacy in this community, not to dupe people.  
 The arguments that there are more books, computers, and magazines at the Main Branch are valid.  There are.  The Main branch and the librarians are awesome resources for materials.   The facility is far nicer than North Branch. 
  However, for my own family, the library represents more than a brick and mortar building filled with words.   It is truly one of the last outposts that accepts all walks of life, aside from schools and local recreations facilities,  where children are sheltered from our consumer culture.   The branch library and Mighty Twig, to me,  represent the old-fashioned values of hard work and knowledge over instant gratification.   They are one of the only places I can take my 5 and 7 year old daughters where we don't need to sign up for a class, we aren't pressured to buy something, and we can stay as long as we like.   When we are there, we find our community of like-minded individuals.
Yes, the main branch offers these things too, but I think it is pretty fantastic that our group is trying to keep 3 of these places open in our community, not just one.   To keep it this way, I'm willing to take a chunk of my school teacher salary to donate back to this community.   If bringing in dogs helps struggling readers progress,  I think it's fantastic! 
If you don't feel this way about library outreach, you don't have to donate to EPLfriends keep open the Twig and west Evanston summer reading game.  You don't have to participate in the debate to keep open the north branch.    
  We, like you,  want to have a prosperous Evanston.    Is working to keep open more community literacy facilities really so bad in all of your opinions (Thomas Mann included) that we have to keep debating this issue?   
 
   
  

Just to Thomas

Thomas- 
    I can understand where you are coming from- If you just jumped into this debate right now, it must be puzzling. Sadly, there is a bit of hostility now.  The debate has become personal for both sides.  
       This issue has been going on for such a long time.  It's truly too much to summarize in a blog like this, and I don't want to write about negatives because I do think the ultimate goal is so positive.   However, if you ever want the full back story, we should meet up!   
 I live not too far from you, and I'd be happy to meet up at one of the coffee shops on central street or even (god forbid) the north branch to fill you in.      
    Jen                :)     

History

Jen P., regarding your post "Just to Thomas".
This is an open discussion, which involves many people beyond me.
I urge you to share your invitation to provide information about the history of this ongoing issue by posting it here. If anyone is puzzled about it, that would help them. It's of little value to a debate like this if you give your point of view to just one person. I'm not a ring leader, I am a member of no group, I'm just a resident who is speaking individually. Please give everyone the benefit of your views here.
I know that debates can become lively, but complaints about hostility, becoming personal, negativity, divisiveness are labels which tend to stop the debate. Although it is easy to slip across the boundary between passionate expression and hostility, it is essential for everyone to contribute. It is essential for a meaningful debate that anyone who is troubled about something must not be intimidated into feeling that they are bad for being labeled "negative" or divisive.
Try to summarize what you know, so your views are known by everyone. That's what blogs are for. We are a long way from Tahrir Square and the Arab Awakening, but we Americans also make effective use of the social media.

History of debate

Thomas-
       Would have been better face-face, but....
  I don't recall all the specific dates, but some highlights-
   Past 10 years- City manager/council has threatened to shut down branches.
  About two years ago- Branch Love group organized to help keep open the branches.  The name was later changed to EPL Friends. I don't know why.   Within an extremely short period, the EPLfriends name and logo was branded, all by passionate volunteers. The website was created, and thousands of private dollars started coming in, to support the branches.   
     During the debate over closing the branches,  some EPL  friends made comments at council meetings that were interpreted poorly, and an Evanston alderman called members of the EPLfriends group/ library board branch supporters mean names on her public blog.   This started off feelings of animosity. 
 About a year ago, the library board wanted EPL to become it's own entity, like most other library systems in Illinois. (Currently, the budget of the EPL is controlled by the city manger/city council).  This would mean that the library would have it's own distinct piece of the tax pie, and would independently decide how to allocate it's money.  It could also mean that the EPL could levy it's own taxes, although the director at that time said that they would not use this power in light of the current financial situation.  At this time, the library board was in favor of sustaining the branches.   Two of the board positions opened and hundreds of well-qualified applicants applied.   Elizabeth Tisdahl, mayor of Evanston, swiftly appointed two new members to the library board without input from the community or city council, both of whom were opposed to the branches and wanted to keep the library under fiscal control of the city council. It was exposed that Tisdahl had personal connections with the two new appointees. Specifically, Tisdahl had purchased a home for one of the appointees, becoming a landlord to her of sorts.   This particular woman was chosen over several applicants with a lifetime of library management experience, and Tisdahl's candidate had no library experience at all.
 Last budget cycle, the mayor/city manager made public statements that pitted reduction of library services against other services, such as health clinics and media centers, creating hostility among all these groups.      Cutting both branches (at that time south branch existed too) would result in less than  a .01% reduction in the city budget.  
  While preaching about the dire need for cutting public services, the city has gone on to spend the following, just this year, and I'm sure I'm missing a few:
$325,000 to purchase vacant property on Howard Street in Anne Rainey's 8th ward district (with the intention of re-selling it to a theater company, but no money has been re-claimed yet.)
$100,000 Grant for a feasibility study to discover if the old theater that sits vacant above the Gap building downtown can profitably be re-built.    There is still no theater in this space.  Nothing has been printed about it recently, and a private self-financed developer just proposed plans to create a theater where Tom Thumb now sits, in downtown Evanston.
$20,000 Grant to developer at Main/Chicago to pay for portions of their marketing materials.   Not sure why this development group could not take their own risk? 
$100,000 to clean up the site at 2424 Oakton Street in order to prepare for a Gordon Food services building.   City staff recommended $40,000, but Anne Rainey convinced the council to spend more (the site is in her ward)
 $41,450  Five buildings downtown Evanston  receive matching grants from city funds to beautify their exteriors
$55,000 city grant (to match a federal grant of $220,000) to conduct a feasibility study on the development of a new EL stop location on the yellow line in Evanston, which is also in anne rainey's district.    This is only puzzling when one looks and sees that just two months prior, the CTA was thinking of shutting down two purple line stops due to limited funds and low ridership.  
Now, one might argue that these things above are in the best interest of economic development.  I do not speak for the EPL friends here, but personally I am far too much of a fiscal conservative to believe that the city staff know better than the market where development should occur.        
 LIke you,  I am all for cutting back, and I absolutely think it will be necessary to manage through the dire straights that are headed our way.   However, if thousands of people not only voice their opinion, but open their wallets to support a cause, I would not put it high on the cutting list.   In fact, the city did take a survey of what people value, and the library and branches were on the top 10 things that people wanted to keep!  
You would think that members of the city council might spend time at every meeting debating not only what to cut, but what the shared values of the city are in order to create a vision statement to guide the budget process.
 Instead, the biggest debating points recently have been:
1.  Whether or not to let a Tilted Kilt restaurant have its liquor license to open in the long-time vacant space just north of Fountain Square.
2.  Whether or not to ban bags across the city.
3. Whether to change their name from aldermen to alderperson or something else less "sexist."
4.  Cutting/selling the Chandler-Newberger center. Even though it one of the few city services in town that is 90% something self-sufficient, the city manager thinks that the building might serve a higher purpose.   He is quoted as saying that chandler (which serves kids from all across town) is "least connected to the city's mission."    
 Well what is that mission?  Where is the vision statement for this town?  Do children have a part in the vision?
Children are my #1 main mission.   I would say that the members of the EPL friends donate their time because they also highly value the education of children and access to literacy,  in all forms.    Do you believe that literacy is an important community value?  
 As for the claims that the EPL Friends are making false marketing claims to get money,  here is a quote from an article that the Chicago Trib.did to promote the recent book sale  (sorry Bill at Evanston Now, you know you're my fav but you didn't have a piece like this)    "Proceeds from this event will help fund EPLF programs and expand neighborhood services to the community."   Perhaps it needed to be more clear and state "Money will be used to fund free literacy programs available to all ages that happen outside the walls of 1703 Orrington Avenue."
 

All good points but..

You are right about all the ways the city council has wasted money on studies and plans that have and many that should not have a chance of being accomplished.
However that is no reason to have branch libraries that serve no purpose.  The Council will always waste money---they get votes from those who's projects they support and hopes that the rest of us are too dumb to remember all the waste at election time---I won't.

Wasted Money

Hey ANonymous,
  Looks like both you and I need to get a life and get off the computer.  Ha ha!  My kids are trying to drag me off-but such a good debate!     Thanks to everyone for being respectful. Most anonymous internet debates go downhill fast.
   If you feel that the North Branch serves no purpose, that's cool. If you don't ever use it, it doesn't serve a purpose, for you.    
  But other citizens are willing to fundraise to keep open the north branch because it serves a purpose for their families.  Why not let them? 
  We agree on the council wasting money.   All the money wasted could have been used to finance things that people actually use already.   A perfect example- the council spends $100,000 looking into the new Varsity Theater, while they can't finance the Noyes Street Art Center which already houses the successful Piven Theater.  
Instead of using our energies debating the merits of the one city financed branch library in town that uses (as I keep stating) less than .01% of the city budget, we should be working together to get better leaders who can make use of the limited money in a more fiscally responsible manner.
 
 

Twig provide for education ?

An argument for the branches were that children need them to study after school.  Does the Twig have the books K-12 students need for their classes ?
Or are the books 'light weight' novels for adults such as Jackie Collins ?

Romance Novels and Branches..

Does one "need" to use shampoo to have clean hair?  Does one "need"  to exercise to be healthy?  Just like these things, the branches are not a "necessity"  for after school work, but they sure are helpful.  
  The branches don't provide any school books, but they provide a quiet, safe place for kids to congregate after school, where they don't have to spend $5 to get a beverage, or feel left out if they can't afford it. 
  Many arguments were/are used as to why the branches are important to our community. 
  But like lovers of romance novels trying to convince the world that their literature of choice is worthwhile reading material,  if you are not a believer in branch library services all the arguments in the world may not influence your opinion.
    

What about tutoring ?

If as you say the branch does not provide school books [or those related to required reading or supplemental reading] but claim a benefit for the children anyway perhaps they should instead concentrate on tutoring AND having the types of books the children can use to further their education---now there would be a real benefit.
The US and apparently Evanston is falling further and further behind in education---not just 'passing' through school.  What is needed is rigor in the schools and more than just getting through school.  The sciences in particular are where students are falling further behind each year.  If the unions keep skilled and knowledgeable people [many retired who would teach for free] out of the schools, then maybe the 'friends' or whatever they will call themselves will set-up more tutoring at their 'branches' and actually provide a benefit.

Could not agree more!

Amen to this-
Yes, EPL friends is looking into providing tutoring too-  They already have a very unique tutoring program called "Tail Waggin' Tutors."  You can find info at www.eplfriends.com
   Currently, I am working as a speech/language pathologist for District 69, one of the most diverse of the 5 school districts within Skokie.    Previous to this job, I worked for a company called Leap Learning Systems in Chicago, serving as their literacy/language specialist.   I worked directly with pre-school teachers in the inner city of Chicago, as well as with after school programs throughout the city including Cabrini Green, Englewood, Altgeld Gardens, and Belmont-Craigin.  My role was to write curriculum, and provide professional development to parents, youth workers, and teachers in the areas of language/literacy/math/pre-school science/math.  I also had the opportunity to speak at several local, state, and national educational conferences on these topics, including how to improve phoneme awareness through books, using language to increase science abilities at the pre-school level, improving writing skills of children during after-school activities, and the connection of executive function to school success.
  I, like the other passionate EPLfriends members, am fully aware of the state of education in America.     The old fashioned library model, with one brick and mortar establishment filled with books, is not, in isolation,  providing the after school enrichment that is needed to help the most academically at-risk students.  IT takes a village to raise a child who loves to learn and read.  
   Getting literacy out into the community,  which is the mission of EPLfriends, sends the message that reading at home is valued by the community.     
   Yes, America is falling behind on national test scores when compared to other countries.   Is cutting libraries the way to improve the situation?   Is making foes of one of the few organizations in town that is working to bring books to kids the answer?  

Could not agree more!

Amen to this-
Yes, EPL friends is looking into providing tutoring too-  They already have a very unique tutoring program called "Tail Waggin' Tutors."  You can find info at www.eplfriends.com
   Currently, I am working as a speech/language pathologist for District 69, one of the most diverse of the 5 school districts within Skokie.    Previous to this job, I worked for a company called Leap Learning Systems in Chicago, serving as their literacy/language specialist.   I worked directly with pre-school teachers in the inner city of Chicago, as well as with after school programs throughout the city including Cabrini Green, Englewood, Altgeld Gardens, and Belmont-Craigin.  My role was to write curriculum, and provide professional development to parents, youth workers, and teachers in the areas of language/literacy/math/pre-school science/math.  I also had the opportunity to speak at several local, state, and national educational conferences on these topics, including how to improve phoneme awareness through books, using language to increase science abilities at the pre-school level, improving writing skills of children during after-school activities, and the connection of executive function to school success.
  I, like the other passionate EPLfriends members, am fully aware of the state of education in America.     The old fashioned library model, with one brick and mortar establishment filled with books, is not, in isolation,  providing the after school enrichment that is needed to help the most academically at-risk students.  IT takes a village to raise a child who loves to learn and read.  
   Getting literacy out into the community,  which is the mission of EPLfriends, sends the message that reading at home is valued by the community.     
   Yes, America is falling behind on national test scores when compared to other countries.   Is cutting libraries the way to improve the situation?   Is making foes of one of the few organizations in town that is working to bring books to kids the answer?  

What about Parents Education ?

The library chat  has been mostly about educational value of the branches and pseudo branches.  I really doubt that is what they are doing but setting that aside.
What are the libraries and more importantly schools doing about parental education ?  I mean teaching/help parents with their children's education.  There is PTA but most say it is a joke---more like Council meetings and parent teacher conferences which are less than helpful and in any event rare and brief.
What is being done to show parents how to help their kids ? How to get online [e.g. Khan Academy] or other help [university/community college courses, summer academic programs, math camp, etc]?  Environment at home for study---books, computer usage, parents turning off TV during homework time and study themself why the kids study [being a good role model and showing education never ends--as much as he kids hope it does], tutoring in their specialty, getting other resources [foreign language movies to go with classes], etc..
Many things parents could do but probably feel unprepared for.  And given how some teachers basically tell the kids AND parents, "I'm the expert, [kids] should listen to me not you [parents]."   Fact is probably most successful students have parents who get very involved and at a minimum supplement what goes on in school.

Parent Education.

This is a great question.  I wish you would join up with the EPL friends and help implement some of your ideas here! 
  You are right about the most successful parents having involved parents.  In my experience working with students in the inner city of Chicago, the children who were able to break out of the poverty cycle almost always had at least one person/relative in their life who supported the student academically.  It is crucial. 
   If you ask any educational professional, the hardest part of any parental education program is getting the parents of the most at-risk kids to attend.   My experience in working with parents is that they know what they should be doing (i.e. not so much TV, reading books, getting resources), but other life factors get in the way.  Just like most people know that eating McDonald's can make you fat, but people eat it anyway.
  The key is not to lecture parents, but to help them.    At my old job with Leap Learning Systems (www.leaplearningsystems.org if you're interested), we helped parents of pre-school children by creating a lending library.  It is shocking, but in many public schools, pre-school children are not allowed to take home books.   Many schools will also not let kids take home text books, for fear that they will get lost.   At Leap, we created free literacy kits, with books and activities, for parents to use and got them into kids backpacks.  First you create a partnership with parents and you help them.  Then, they might come to listen to some new ideas.
     I see EPL friends as trying to do the same thing.  Yes, we are not all the way there yet.  The group just officially organized a little over a year ago, but I think this is the direction the board of directors envisions.
    I urge you to take your energies and consider getting involved.  There has been so much bad press slamming EPLfriends, and it's time to start being positive and building up this city, together.     

Library does literacy in the community

I am seeing a lot of obfuscation about what EPLF does or plans to do versus what the Library actually does. THE LIBRARY has hosted grant funded literacy activities for parents and children. THE LIBRARY offers a parenting collection to help parents help their kids read. THE LIBRARY pays for an online test preparation service that kids can use from home, from school or anywhere. THE LIBRARY has worked with Literature for All of Us on reading events for mothers and daughters, with All Our Sons to offer support  for teen boys. THE LIBRARY offers a Father-Son book club and elementary school book discussion group. THE LIBRARY provides bilingual storytimes and activities for families at the District 65 Family Center, at Baby Toddler Nursery, Family Focus, the Family Room, YOU, the YMCA, and a host of day care centers and pre-school programs across Evanston. THE LIBRARY sends teen reading specialists to the middle schools, ETHS, and the Community Defender's Office. THE LIBRARY works with families in the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter.
THE LIBRARY puts out adult books at Robert Crown, the Metra  train stations, and the Civic Center. THE LIBRARY gives out children's and adult books at summer festivals and the Farmer's Markets. THE LIBRARY supports book talks and discussions at the Levy Center, Three Crowns, 10,000 Villages, and the North Shore Hotel.
The LIBRARY has had a children's outreach position for over 12 years. To describe EPL as "an old fashioned library model,  brick and mortar establishment filled with books", and the Friends as "getting literacy out into the community" is deceptive and insulting to the Evanston Public Library staff.

DIane Allen?

All these things are awesome!   The Main Branch rocks.  I am sorry if  my comment made it seem like there is a competition between EPLFriends and the Main Branch.   We are both helping kids, and that is great.   
You must work with/for the library to know all these details?  
  This debate (which must be winning some award for most comments) goes round and round. 
 I signed up with ELPfriends because yes, I love the north branch.  I am also really excited about all the ideas that they are putting together to bring more literacy to other parts of town.  This does not mean that I don't value what librarians are doing!    None of the people I've met at EPLfriends are librarian haters.  We love the library, so much so that we want more of it.
  So what is going on here?  
 Is there a way to constructively mend whatever riff was created?   What are some ways that you all can think of to creating a better library-EPLfriend-city wide partnership?   
We, obviously, love the branches.  You who are debating me don't.  I don't think we will ever agree on this.   If the city closed North Branch tomorrow, how much money would truly be saved?  Break it down by day.  Can somebody find that figure and post it?   IF this is a fight about saving money, then we should all be perfectly clear about how much money is at stake here.   Please also post, for a reference point, how much of the city budget this represents.  
 To Diane Allen (I'm assuming that the Diane comment below is from you too?)  I see your comments about the money donated to the main branch, so you might be in on this debate anonymously.  What do you think?     What is the answer to this mess?  Is there a way to work together?  
   I have not been at any of the night time debates about the branches. However, I talked to Liz Tisdahl (poor woman was just trying to get out of the gym and I cornered her),  and she told me about some EPLFriend comments, specifically about a comparison to tax increases and starbucks coffee, that really upset a bunch of city council members way back.  I also read the post in reply to this night on Anne Rainey's website, which she later pulled down, that really upset branch supporters.     Both sides have made mis-steps, and nobody is willing to apologize.       It all just makes me sad.    This is about literacy and kids.  WE have to get back to that and find a way to work together.
 

Dubious donations

Jen  P. wrote in a posting "When Thomas comments that the Evanston Public Library website should acknowledge the accomplishments of the EPL Friends group, you are right! " I actually did not say that, but reading the repetition of the theme that EPL Friends has contributed so much money to EPL, I began to piece together what has been buried under a lot of, what I shall call, hyperbole. Please post corrections, if you see any historical fiction in this.
The original friends group was founded in 1983 with the name Evanston Library Friends (ELF).
As far as I can gather, things went south when the South Branch Library was closed. Many people wanted to keep it open and felt angry. When they formed the Evanston Public Library Friends (EPL Friends), in March of 2010, they severed that cooperative contributory link with EPL. When EPL Friends say that they have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to EPL, are they claiming a link back to the contributions of ELF?
EPL Friends is an organization which in its prolonged fit of pique is damaging, not helping, an important department of our city.
I do not mean to cause any problems for anyone, but they sometimes do that for themselves without my help. EPL Friends have been so strident in their claims that I want to make everyone aware of the potential problems for themselves and the harm to EPL, before matters get even worse. Where have I heard that before? I don't want to overly dramatize this; Lincoln is not rolling over in his grave.
However, I thought that we would have learned something from the experience of our two previous governors: you have to be very careful how you go about soliciting donations.
The people of Evanston know what a good library they have and often show their appreciation by donating books or money. So when EPL Friends use the name EPL, they know that it will attract donors. However, one must be clear and honest when soliciting such donations. As if just using the name EPL isn't enough, EPL Friends say that they are "dedicated to strengthening Evanston Public Library’s innovation, leadership and neighborhood outreach." And "Find out how you can help strengthen Evanston’s library system." (Source: EPL Friends website) How many people are deceived into thinking that they are giving to EPL? How many donations which EPL Friends capture under this scheme would otherwise go to EPL?
This is not a neighborhood garage sale these people are running; this is a serious matter.
EPL is a department of Evanston city government, so when EPL Friends masquerade as a contributor to EPL, that ought to get the attention of and the citizens should get a reaction from our city government officials. I expect the Evanston government officials to support and defend our EPL.
The Mayor and City Council establish a city budget and the EPL staff and Library Board try valiantly to manage their part of that budget. They hold hearings and make the most of what they have to work with. If you can't handle these adjustments to the city budget, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Just wait until you get the next budgetary decisions from Springfield and Washington, DC.

Duck! Flying books incoming.

"I expect the Evanston government officials to support and defend our EPL"  Geez, you make it sound like the EPL friends, a bunch teachers, ex-librarians and soccer moms are on the attack against Evanston!   We just want to keep open facilities of learning for kids, not take down the city.
 I am not sure the dates of the group forming. 
Would you like a breakdown of where the EPLfriend money goes?  I will email Emily Guthrie, ex-Evanston alderman, organizer of "Evanston safety town" for 4-7 years olds for the past 27 years, current EPLfriend president, and all around sensible nice lady to consider writing up a piece about the money.  I am really not sure if any of it goes directly to the library funds.  I do know that the money has helped fund west side outreach, and of course south side.   IF you have donated money and felt duped in some way, why don't you write her too?
Or would you just prefer that EPL Friends goes away?   Will it help the Evanston budget if people stop being passionate about literacy?   
Man, it is hot outside today!  Keeps me glued to this online computer debate :)

Dubious Donations correction

After replying to Jen P. regarding her comment "Just to Thomas", I realize that I had crossed that line into hostility in my comment "Dubious Donations", so I make an apology and correction here.
The people of Evanston know what a good library they have and often show their appreciation by donating books or money. So when EPL Friends use the name EPL, it is very likely [instead of: they know] that it will attract donors. However, one must take care to be clear and honest when soliciting such donations. As if just using the name EPL isn't enough, EPL Friends say that they are "dedicated to strengthening Evanston Public Library’s innovation, leadership and neighborhood outreach." And "Find out how you can help strengthen Evanston’s library system." (Source: EPL Friends website) How many people are confused [instead of: deceived] into thinking that they are giving to EPL? How many donations which EPL Friends obtain [instead of: capture] under this system [instead of: scheme] would otherwise go to EPL?
I might not like the results, but I do not know what their intentions are.

Thanks :)

Hey Thomas- 
Just created and sent in my reply to your other letter. whew, long winded-  Sent it in to get posted, and then read your new reply.
  Thank you very much for the clarification of your statements.  I will pass on the word to the folks who run the EPL friend show about how you feel that EPL friends needs to be more clear in their marketing.  They are probably reading in on this anyway.
Perhaps we can suggest the name become "Evanston Public Library Ex-Spouses.  We have the same mission to educate the kids, but we operate from different budgets and can't seem to share the same roof."   Ha ha ha.   
Anyway, it's good to get off the bench and into the political game in this town.  The passionate involved people, who represent so many viewpoints, are one of my favorite things about E-Town! 
  Jumping onto my own political soap box, I very much think that we need better leadership in Evanston- starting with a new mayor.  Several aldermen also need to learn to be more respectful when they disagree with others.  The new mayor and council members also need to keep better control of the workings of the city manager, or the city manager needs to go too.  He works for all of us taxpayers after all, not the other way around.   There should be no more behind the doors meetings about public issues.  No more comments that there have been talks of selling buildings, but no public record of any meetings.    This puts people into an angry panic, and I think it is completely counterproductive to building a community of respect.
We also need a city wide mission statement.
Strong leaders in city hall would not have let this library situation become so divisive.  After all, at it's heart it's really just about books and kids.
 
 
 

Friends of the North Branch

For many years my husband and I donated to Friends of the Evanston Public Library.  We switched to the Fund for Excellence because we find the emphasis of the branch library support  to be a lot of "me, me, me at the expense of everybody else"
If the Friends of EPL really want people to know exactly what they are doing they should change the name to "Friends of the North Branch." 

The North, The South, The West, and places in between

But we are not just friends of the north branch. We are also financing the Mighty Twig, which is essentially a small local library, at 900 Chicago Avenue, in the south end town.  We are also purchasing books for the reading rooms at the Robert Crown Center at Main/Dodge and the Daniel and Ada Rice Educational Center, which is a therapeutic day school that serves children in at Ridge/Main.  EPL friends is also  supplying advertising and man power to provide the summer reading game at Dempster/Dodge on the West End of Town.  
   The EPL friends feel that there are pockets of Evanston where children may live close to a library, but are not bringing books into their homes.  One of the missions, beyond just keeping the current North Branch, is to bring books into more places and provide easier literacy access to families.   The Robert Crown Center is a perfect example.  The Mighty Twig is just blocks from the Robert Crown Center and within a bus ride to the Main Library.    However, there are many families within Evanston who are still not making the trip.   Educational research has shown the there is a correlation of access to books within the home and academic success.  We, at EPLfriends want to get books to kids, and we will do whatever it takes to make it easier for families.  We are willing to give our own money to help make this happen for other people's kids.   When kids go to sports or skating at Robert Crown, they can bring home books too.  
  I'm glad that you did not feel confused and continue donating to the EPLfriends if you just want to donate to literacy activities that happen with the walls of the main branch. 
It seems that EPLfriends might need to be more specific than saying we  finance "neighborhood outreach" programs.

Name confusion

Jen P. is actually correct: "When Thomas comments that the Evanston Public Library website should acknowledge the accomplishments of the EPL Friends group, you are right!"
In my earlier post "Focus support on main library" (Thursday, July 14, 2011, at 9:38 am.), there is a typo, which must have made that part of my comment seem weird; here is that part with correction:
"I was not aware that the EPL Friends group which was founded in March 2010 "has funded the EPL system with hundreds of thousands of dollars". To achieve that in one year is very impressive. (Now I'm being droll.) The EPL Friends (instead of: EPL) website ought to highlight that accomplishment." Next sentence now makes sense: "When I look through their website, it appears that they are now soliciting donations of money and books to support their own activities as an independent organization."
Had EPL Friends highlighted that funding achievement on their EPL Friends website, I would have seen it and I would not have been "droll" about it.

Library as a place

I started the debate with my reasons for closing the North Branch facility. I view a library as having two aspects: library as place; library as information. Of course, a library may be valued for either of those aspects.
I emphasize information access. A library can serve various needs, but reading the statements of EPL Friends, I see emphasis on place, a place for their activities. Those activities appear to me to be in essence, home schooling. The branch libraries are a convenient place to conduct group home schooling activities, so losing them is detrimental to their activities. I now think that when I pointed out that the branch libraries do not provide adequate access to information, I missed the fundamental nature of what EPL Friends want: a place to conduct their group home schooling programs.
Although I have read elsewhere that our public schools are among the best in the country, I have no criticism of people conducting neighborhood home schooling. However, that drive to retain branch libraries produces unwarranted pressure on the Library Board. Having learned that EPL Friends donated $108,400  in Summer of 2010, I am very impressed by that accomplishment, but the fact that the donation was restricted to branch library operations emphasizes the desire to have a place.
Wouldn't it be more appropriate to ask for access to a room at your neighborhood elementary schools? Wouldn't that be a perfect match? Or, follow the model of your Mighty Twig project. It doesn't seem appropriate to press the Library Board to support these activities.

Yes- Library = community center too

  Your idea about opening up access at a local elementary school is a good idea. However,  if you look into this I think you will find that no public school can allow unlimited daily access to strangers, like the Twig or North Branch,  for liability reasons.   
 
 
  

EPL as a name

Evanston Public Library has many friends (lower case). The EPL administration has well-established procedures whereby friends can contribute to their library.
EPL Friends runs the risk of disrupting those procedures, especially when they solicit donations. The use of EPL in their name might confuse donors, who really intend to give money directly to EPL, but are diverted from the EPL Fund for Excellence or books for the EPL Book Sales.
The significance of monetary gifts is obvious, but book donations to libraries might be undervalued by some people. There is a group of library friends at EPL who work quietly to manage book donations: the Library Book Sale Volunteers. When a person donates books to a library, they are often showing appreciation for its services and they expect those books to be used to expand the collection. If a particular title is already in the collection and an added copy or replacement is not needed, then the proceeds of the library's book sale goes directly into the library's financial accounts, perhaps to purchase new books or other information resources.
Therefore, I urge EPL Friends to stop using EPL as part of their name.

Information Outreach

The explosion of electronic resources and Internet access have enable EPL to disseminate information so fast that people sometimes seem to forget who is providing it for them. For many people, as remote access increases, the need to come to the library declines.
The EPL website, the library's portal, provides information outreach services to everyone in Evanston. EPL provides so much information over the Internet (much of it accessible only by using your EPL membership number), which is brought right to your computer, that it is like a branch library in your home!
Electronic resources: various types of reference books, indexes, full text articles from magazine, journals, newspapers, ebooks, audio books, etc.
Guide links to reliable Internet sources.
Phone, email, instant messaging, text messaging to bring the reference librarian to your home branch library.
This remote access to all those resources is very important to people at home. EPL also has many financial and legal e-resources for businesses. Just because you haven't been counted coming into the library, doesn't mean you aren't a library user. You are bringing the library home to you (or to your Evanston business). And you can do this 24/7.
Imagine a student who realizes at 10pm that more information is needed for that report which is due in class tomorrow. Just log into <www.epl.org> and bring your branch library to your home computer, to access those reliable and accurate information resources which the librarians at EPL provide.
Therefore, I recommend placing budgetary emphasis on EPL Orrington Ave.

I love our libraries!

As a father of two very young children who are starting to develop a real love of books - a hopefully life-long joy of the written word - I cannot tell you how deeply I appreciate the libraries that we have here.  If you could see how their faces spark, their minds churning, questioning, recognizing.  For my younger one (19 months), it's all about pointing out things in the pictures, learning what they are called, what color they are and other details she needs to continue to rapidly build her catalog of "things" in the world.  For my older child (3 years) it's becoming more about the words, the letters, the story being told and "why"s of all things happening and appearing in the story.
 
It is such an amazing experience to see their very young minds developing; the building of the foundation of their appreciation of books is equally amazing and comforting for a parent looking to ensure a strong future for his children.  My wife and I have been able to do this in part because of the libraries and their deep and rich collection of titles for children.  It is also a priority for us to convey the greatness of the idea and ideal of a library to our children, so it's not enough to just bring books home, we find it important to make sure that our children have a good interaction with the library, at the library.
 
Our efforts at highlighting the importance of the library began for us at the Main branch of the EPL when our son was still a budding toddler, before we had our daughter.  Once she was born, making the trip to the main branch was still very much an available effort, but we found that given all things that heading to the South Branch was a much, much better solution for us.  We found that the experience for our children was more or less the same at the South Branch - we could read fun and exciting books, engage in other age appropriate activities and also participate in library events like story telling hour.
 
With the impending shutdown of the South Branch we were genuinely concerned over what we would do to ensure the continued enjoyment  and development of our relationship with the library as the trip to the main branch became a harder to accomplish endeavor (kids grew heavier, more mobile and less interested in following parental requests, such as "stay away from the edge of the train platform", adding all the required drinks, snacks, diapers, wipes, changes of clothing and a stroller and it gets tiresome even to think about it).  We were amazed to see that a group of volunteers - who's original purpose was to save the branch libraries - was stepping up far and well beyond their original effort to actually provide what the city and city manager didn't have the ability to provide.  The Mighty Twig is an amazing example of what it means to have a strong, deeply committed, smart and generous community.  What they accomplished just by following their passionate belief about the importance of libraries, and the libraries' proximity to families that make such regular use of them, they managed to raise enough awareness, volunteer interest and money to keep such an amazing and important service accessible and available.  Wow.
 
I am so amazed by their efforts.  And, I don't have to be as ashamed to admit that the city that I live in closed a library; instead I can proud to point out that the people here don't just talk about what they find important, they do something about it.  Here's to the EPL Friends!  Thanks again, from the bottom of my heart.
 
In closing I want to say that this to Thomas Mann:  The name EPL Friends is in no way deceptive.  It is exactly what it claims to be.  And, as far as focusing solely on the Main Library, it appears that that is exactly what is happening.  It is a mistake to think only of what it's like for you to interact with the library and instead I ask that you think about the entire community for which is should serve - these include people with families of various sizes with various age ranges of children, the elderly and the disabled.  The branch libraries are important to these people and should not be sacrificed.  Finally, as far as appreciating and using the EPL, there's nothing more I would like to be doing than to have the full range of services the library provides, unfortunately, the short-cited decisions made by those with such power have made that much harder for me to do.  So, for as long as we can get it, we will enjoy The Mighty Twig and all of the wonderful things it has to offer.  Who knows, maybe the Library Board and the City Manager and Aldermen will finally take up the EPL Friends on their offer to help out the EPL .  So far, they've been left to make it up as they go in order to provide for the people left hanging out on a limb without a branch library.

I'll sacrifice branch access to have longer hours on Sunday!

Pleeeeeaaase?? I pay taxes!! I have 3 kids! Highschool, middle school and grade school... I can't tell you the number of times I wish they were open past 6 on a Sunday. I live on the west side where there isn't access to a branch. It's a car or bus ride to any of them. But as a full time employed mom, I cherish my weekends and feel cut short with the early closing time on Sunday. Besides! My kids dont start thinking homework untill at least 6 pm on Sunday! Sorry branches, but I'd sell you out in a heartbeat to get a few more hours at the end of the week.

What about adding a branch?

I believe the thinking should go in the other direction. Instead of thinking it a good idea to sell out a branch to get more hours at the main library, why not instead look into ways to get a branch opened up near you. Do you think that would be better for you and your family?

A few weeks ago I was at The Mighty Twig and heard of an idea to get the same kind of thing opened up on the west side. What do you think?

What about a bookmobile?

Skokie has a bookmobile which accesses all parts of Skokie. It is an event when it is in a neighborhood and brings people from the neighborhood out. 
I think the 'Friends' could have/should have considered that as an option.

Branch for far NW side ?

Residents in the far NW side probably live further than most from a branch.  How about one at Lovelace Park ?

Wilmette Library during school year

This probably won't help much but the Wilmette Library is open until 9 PM Sunday during the school year.

Thank you!!

I didn't know that! I now have somewhere to go on a Sunday night! For several years, I have wanted to go to EPL Sunday eves to have a low key environment for the older ones to study and do homework while having some quiet reading time with my youngest. I think it's crazy they close at 6, but budgets are tight I suppose. So Wilmette it is!

Yawn

Just like a regular library, this topic is making me tired.
We are lucky the economy isn't worse or else the real main library would be slowly cut so that you could call it "the mighty stump." 
What happened to the days where we were one community?  Everyone making sacrifices and working together?  Not bickering and arguing?  Where we weren't afraid or too lazy and complacent?  Instead, we are all whining!  Me! Me! Me!  There is no more Us!  
Yeah, our City Council and department directors might leave a little to be desired, but we are only going to get leaders that represent us.  Sad but true.  So, if we can't come to an agreement about names, and if we can't play nice, or work on and have a shared vision, well, then our government will do the same.
So, I encourage the EPLFriends to do what is in the best interest of the entire community and just change your name.  You can still raise money and fund whatever it is you want to fund; from Mighty Twigs to victory gardens to whatever.
If you can keep the North Branch open and bring back the South Branch, great!  There is not one person in the world that would be against that.
But please, this stuff is getting tiresome... 

South Branch

I thought I was paying attention to the debate of the past couple of years, but recently the South Branch was closed while the North Branch remains open.  Somehow I missed the explanation for this.  How did it happen that only one branch was closed?  And how was it decided which of the two would close?  

South Branch

Short answer is that the lease ran out on the rented old South Branch space and no funding or agreement was reached on where to locate a new one.
See this story. And for more on the history of the library debate, look at this collection of stories.
-- Bill