Quantcast

Aldermen set high hurdle for branch backers

Supporters of branch libraries in Evanston will face a daunting challenge from the City Council when they hold a kickoff meeting at the Ecology Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

It appears they will have to find nearly $500,000 a year in private funding to keep the existing two branches open.

Supporters of branch libraries in Evanston will face a daunting challenge from the City Council when they hold a kickoff meeting at the Ecology Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

It appears they will have to find nearly $500,000 a year in private funding to keep the existing two branches open.

They may also have to come up with funding to open at least one additional branch in currently underserved sections of town.

And they may have to fund as much as several hundred thousand dollars in renovations at the branch library sites.

After several votes and various position statements by aldermen on the branch library issue over the past few months of budget debate, it appears that there is little support left on the City Council for city funding of the branches.

Even Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes the South Branch, conceded when pressed by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, Monday night that she now believes the branch backers need to raise the full cost of branch operations to keep the branches running beyond six months.

Aldermen Mark Tendam, whose 6th Ward adjoins the North Branch site, has argued mainly recently for giving the branch backers a chance to see if they can come up with the funds, as has Alderman Jane Grover, whose 7th Ward includes the North Branch.

But whether they might still vote to keep the branches open if only part of the needed money was raised has seemed unclear.

The two other votes to give the branch backers the six-month window appear to be firmly opposed to city funding beyond that point.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, has voiced doubts that the branch backers can come up with the needed funds, and has said she’s unwilling to go beyond six months with city funding.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said the branch backers also need to come up with a plan to provide branch services for the rest of town.

He urged the branch backers "to take up fight for equity in whole city and make sure that library services are accessible to all."

Among those who voted against the six-month extension, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, echoed Jean-Baptiste, saying that in the future he wouldn’t support a plan that doesn’t provide service for the entire community.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, has said relatively little in the library debate, but is believed to share the concerns about lack of branch service on the city’s west side, and about the cost of the branches in a time of extremely tight city budgets.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, Monday called the branches "a blatantly duplicated service" that the city can ill-afford, a sentiment that seemed to be shared by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who has pointedly raised doubts about the fundraising prospects for the library backers.

Editors’ Picks