Evanston aldermen who’ve reacted publicly so far are less than pleased with the Library Board’s vote Wednesday night to impose its own tax on city residents.

Evanston aldermen who’ve reacted publicly so far are less than pleased with the Library Board’s vote Wednesday night to impose its own tax on city residents.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, posting comments to her message board from her cell phone as the meeting unfolded, told her constituents “you’re screwed” as the 6-2 vote for the tax levy was announced.

And early this morning, in another message, she listed the board member’s e-mail addresses and said they “are the arrogant wealthy people who are sticking it to you for more taxes.”

“Meet your library board. They said after they impose the tax, they will meet with you,” she added. “It was totally disgusting. Write to them and tell them how you feel and what you think of their sneaky elitist tactics.”

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, walking out of the meeting after the vote, was overheard saying, “They don’t have clue what they’re doing.”

And Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, out walking his dog this morning, told Evanston Now’s Charles Bartling that he wasn’t surprised by the vote, “But I don’t think they realize what they’re getting themselves into.”

E-mail addresses and more contact information for the board members are available on the library website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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30 Comments

  1. Dissolve Library Board??

    Why didn’t the council simply dissolve the volunteer advisory board before this action was taken? Maybe I am wrong but I believe the council has the power.  The Library board has been planning this for weeks now.  We all knew what was coming and the only people who could have stopped this action was the city council.  Please someone tell me that I am wrong.    

  2. Skokie?

    Does anyone know if Evanston residents can use the Skokie public library? I encourage everyone to boycott EPL and go to Skokie (or WIlmette) if possible.

    1. Wilmette Library

      Evanston Residents can use the Wilmette library—they just have to get their card activated there.

      They have fewer ‘educational’ books than EPL Main but far more than EPL branches [that is not saying much].  Their childrens area must be the same size as EPL Main.

      Their DVD collection would seem to be about the same size as EPL but they seem to get recent DVDs [and seemingly more] much faster than EPL.  I think recent movies are a bit more to rent than EPL but non-recent are about the same terms.

      The library is MUCH more quiet and you don’t have people hogging four or five magaziines at a time and there are not the loud phone talkers and people coming there just to sleep.  I’ve never seen the police have to come there.

      During the summer Sunday, they are open until I think 9 PM.   Sat./Sunday open at 1 and close at 5 except summer Sundays.

      1.  Wilmette Library is also

         Wilmette Library is also open later than EPL on Friday nights, until 9 PM.  On Saturdays, they open at 9 AM.  They are able to offer longer hours because they have more money than Evanston Library.  All of the North Suburban libraries have more per capita funding than Evanston Library.

        "…they seem to get recent DVDs [and seemingly more] much faster than EPL."

        If EPL had not had to reduce its budget and lay off eight Technical Services staff members last February, in favor of implementing a new automated ordering/ processing system (which is still not working), perhaps new materials would get to the EPL shelves faster and in greater number.  

  3. Is there a doctor in the house?

    The list of board members on the library website includes Dr. Gail Bush and Dr. Christopher Stewart.

    I think that it is silly  for people to include such titles when they are not relevant to the situation.  So, for example, a physician may go around calling himself  "Dr. Zhivago" when he is in the hospital treating patients.  If this same physician insists on being called ‘Dr. Zhivago’, instead of his first name (‘Yuri’) or a more formal (‘Mr. Zhivago’)  when he is at the supermarket or checking into a hotel,  then he is pompous and obnoxious.   Dr. Rand Paul is a glaring example of this silliness. 

    This is true for physicians, dentists,  eye doctors, and  Ph.D.’s .  ( Ed.D.’s and Doctors of Chiropractic are silly by definition, so I won’t even address this.)

    So, even if these guys do have doctorates in library science,  I don’t see how it is relevant to serving on the board here.

    1. Stewart’s “Doctor”

      I am guessing Stewart’s doctoral degree is in library science since he is the Dean of the Library at IIT.

      I remember him running a lackluster campaign against Ald. Baptiste in 2nd ward elections a few years ago when the latter had to wage a write-in effort because he failed to fill out the paperwork correctly to get on the ballot.

      He was trounced in the election.

      I vaguely recall his endorsement of a modest libertarian platform.

      I don’t believe he was using the "Doctor" moniker back then, but I agree with you that it’s lame.

      1. State rep race

        I remember him running a lackluster campaign against Ald. Baptiste in 2nd ward elections a few years ago when the latter had to wage a write-in effort because he failed to fill out the paperwork correctly to get on the ballot.

        Yes…thanks for reminding us.  Jean-Baptiste didn’t fill out the paperwork properly, and he was denied a spot on the ballot.  Instead of whining about the unfairness of life , he ran as a write-in and got elected.

        Are you listening, Mr. Funk?

    2. Irrelevant

      Not only is your comment irrelevant to the issue at hand, but it’s also insulting:

      You don’t know if these individuals requested that their titles be included on the library website, or if the decision was made by the IT person who set up the site.

      You are not at the supermarket.

      No one is asking you to call Dr. Bush "Doctor."

      Being a board member is a formal affiliation – including an individual’s title on the website is not "silly" or even remotely out of place. In fact, it’s incredibly appropriate, seeing as the title indicates that they have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to education and, in some cases, to helping people (teachers, physicians). Very applicable for the website of a LIBRARY.

      And finally, Doctors work very hard, devote 4+ years on top of undergrad for that "Dr." If they want to include the title, they can.

  4. City Councils (Past & Present) Should Blame Themselves

    Nothing happens in a vacumn. The courageous & historic vote by the Evanston Library Board last night was the result & culmination of many bad decisions taken  financially & otherwise by the current & previous City Councils of Evanston over a long period of time. The unprecedented & historic outpouring of community support to save, fund, and reinvent the Evanston Public Library system illuminates & serves as a cautionary reminder that  our elected officials are responsible to the citizens/voters ultimately.

    It is hard to fathom the comments made by some of our aldermen publicly here. One can understand the elected officials’ anger over losing control of  the Library tax levy and their own failure of imagination to realize that after years of threatening to close the branch libraries (especially after this year’s budget decisions) that a majority of active and involved citizens would stand together and say very loudly "enough is enough"! Of course the greater fear involved politcally is that more of the citizens will perhaps realize that with enough hard work and passion any citizen’s efforts can  lead to verifiable & historic change.  Naturally, if this becomes too viral or too contagious it will lead  our elected officials to feeling even more out of control. As someone said to me this morning: " Hey, aren’t we all on the same team?"  In a perfect world, one would like to think that all citizens & elected staff are on the same team in regards to the health & well being of the Evanston Library system specifically and the City of Evanston in general. Obviously, there is a lot of hard work that desperately needs to be done in many areas.

    Finally, some other thoughts for my fellow citizens to ponder:

    How wonderfully transparent it will be to see the Library tax levy as a separate line item on your property tax bill! Our elected officials will no longer be able to do inter-fund transfers out of the Library account to put our tax dollars for some other use. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is something that continues to go on with COE budget and will continue to go on (that’s how we got in such lethal fiscal shape to start with, unfortunately). Just imagine the actual amount of tax dollars raised by  the Library tax levy acually being used for the Library.

    For those concerned about the "T" word (Taxes):

    Wouldn’t you like to see a separate line item on your property tax bill for the actual amount of your tax dollars going into Evanston’s TIFs’. If one is truly concerned about taxes, citizens should remember that for the 23 year period of a TIF district that once assessed value is frozen over the 23 year life of the TIF district, no tax dollars above the frozen level can be spent except within & germane to the TIF district. When District 65 & 202, the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, the City of Evanston and all other taxing bodies raise their respective tax levies, the tax dollars needed have to come from all taxpayers to make up for the shortfall from the frozen assessed values of the TIF districts. More simply, A BACK DOOR TAX INCREASE. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the outrage was directed at this dark & shadowy developer welfare world.

    Being criticized by elected officials who: let our pension deficit grow to 175 + million dollars on their elected watch, had a 10+ million deficit for the past budget year, continue to spend money we don’t have at the Economic Development Committee to privatize profit and socialize risk and have not even begun to cut enough of the City’s budget to reflect the fiscal reality that was ignored by the long time aldermen is difficult to understand on any level. As citizens, we do need to go after the District 65 & 202 and other taxing bodies that make up our property tax bill as strongly as we engage our City Council. None of this happened overnight and it will not be resolved quickly.

    I can’t think of a better place to put my trust & tax dollars than in the Evanston Library Board. We have already seen what has happened over far too long a time with that control & trust being with  the Evanston City Council. Unfortunately, this City Council (along with previous Councils) earned the privilege of having the Library Tax Levy taken away from them. One hopes that this Council and all citizens will support & help the Evanston Library Board going forward. The Library Board through the years has earned that right through years (decades) of making the Evanston Library System work even though it was never properly or completely funded through it’s rightful tax levy.      

    1. Tax increases

      It’s good that you agree with the board that your taxes should increase. Since once the boaard gets it cut. Do you really think the City will lower it’s levy by that amount?

      Alderman should have seen this coming since it appears the Mayor appointed a board that was in favor of keeping the under used branches open.

  5. Skokie library

    Yes, Evanston residents can use the Skokie library. All you have to do is have them activate your EPL card into theri system. Easy Schmeezy. Then you will find that Skokie has a fabulous collection of DVDs and even still some VHS tapes. They are FREE to check out, unlike EPL. I get much more stuff there than at EPL anymore. But I do usually go to each once a week. I only go to the south branch, maybe a couple times a year.

  6. What are the Alderman mad about?

    Are the Evanston Alderman mad that the unelected Library Board’s tax levy burdening the Evanston taxpayer or are they mad that Library Board beat the City Council to the punch and raised our taxes first, denying them the pleasure. 

    As much as I detest the unelected and unaccountable ELB levying the tax,  the City Council has got to heed the growing unrest in the community of the City Council’s irresponsibility and lack of focus on cutiing the runaway spending.  The City Council should have cut the branches from the budget years ago.  The city dithered and lacked the spine to make this easy decision.  This issue festered and now we have this problem.  The Library usage report shows that less then 10% of card holders used the library branches and yet this small and adamant minority got their way.

    I can only hope that this issue may spark some new found backbone of our Alderman to deeply  cut the budget.

    Her is one solution.  Why not put the branches back at the schools.  In the north at Haven; in the south at Lincoln or Nichols. 

     

     

  7. Blaming the Board for Exercising Their Authority?

    Though I am only an infrequent library user, I would have gladly voted for a referendum to grant them more funds, even through new or increased taxes/fees.  As much as I groan every time I have the bad sense to read about something our fair City’s council has done, I would have supported any moves by the City to better fund the library system, again, with dollars out of my pocket.

    Still, on reading this whole saga, from the library board’s memorandum to aldermanic reactions, I found myself livid.  Not because I begrudge the library the few hundred extra dollars a year they’ll be getting from me – but because it was accomplished by a process I felt I had no say in, a reaction I think a lot of people would have to such an outcome.  (And one which seems to be in evidence in folks’ comments around here.)

    And where to direct one’s anger?  That’s easy – the unelected, unaccountable library board, right?

    For better or worse, they’re just doing what they’re supposed to, in accordance with the powers and duties granted to them by the Illinois Local Library Act.  Blame the City Council for making it necessary, maybe.  Blame our reps and senators in Springfield for passing legislation granting tax powers to unelected boards, absolutely.  But the library board?  I think I’ll save my arrows* for someone votes can actually bring down.

     

    (*Figurative arrows, officer, not actual projectiles.)

  8. Library Fund a responsible move

    Some clarification’s needed here, rather than trying to divide or scare residents.

    First, all that the Library Board has done is to move toward independent, responsible, and non-political management of the libraries. That’s no radical change, it’s simply how most Illinois libraries work. The Evanston Public Library Friends has a brief discussion on their website, and sections 3-5, 3-6, and 4-7 of the Local Library Act are very clear. A separate Library Fund and separate library tax under the "exclusive control" of the board is how Illinois intends libraries to be budgeted. Independent library funding is designed to unlink library administration from political decision-making. At the same time, it’s more transparent.

    The move from being dependent on General Revenue funds to a Library Fund derived from a pass-through levy is not a "new tax," but a different revenue mechanism that, in and of itself, is cost-neutral. If there were no change in the library budget, that new line item we’ll see on tax bills would be entirely offset by reduced drawdown from General Revenue funds. That is, building permit fees and parking meter fines would no longer help fund the library; nor would the City’s own property tax levy. Remember that property taxes already partially fund the library, but the fraction is not visible to taxpayers on their bills.

    The Library Board hasn’t decided whether or not to increase the library budget. However, let’s be candid: that budget is currently far below what taxpayers long ago voted to allow. The collections budget was cut by 23% over the last three years, and money for periodicals was more than halved in the last budget. Evanston spends less per capita on its libraries than any neighboring suburb. Restoration of some of the cuts will probably require some modest revenue increase. But let’s remember that the approximate annual cost of running both neighborhood branches at current service levels is about $5 per capita, less than the cost of one movie ticket (or parking ticket). The library, even with neighborhood branches, never was, and will not be, a major factor in Evanstonians’ overall tax burden.

    Yes, the Board is appointed. So are many agencies that affect our pocketbook, such as the Illinois Commerce Commission (which sets utility rates), the RTA (which sets fares), or the Mosquito Abatement District (which has its own levy). The transfer of Cook County hospitals to an independent, appointed Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board is generally regarded as a good-government move to free the hospital systems from politics.

    The Evanston Public Library Friends group did not make the Board’s decision, but supports the preparation of an independent and responsible budget. EPLF has its statement on its website, and is starting to collect helpful information on this and other topics. We all need to become more aware of how all our local governments tax us and spend money, and of the value and payback that a comprehensive library system adds to a community.

    1. periodicals and per capita spending

      The collections budget was cut by 23% over the last three years, and money for periodicals was more than halved in the last budget. Evanston spends less per capita on its libraries than any neighboring suburb 

       

      Money for periodicals was halved?  Good!  Many periodicals are no longer necessary, and the library should always be reviewing its purchases.

      Evanston spends less per capita on its libraries that any neighboring suburb?  Well, we also have a larger population.  As I have pointed out many times, one of the benefits of having a larger population is that costs are spread out over a larger base.  Economy of scale and all that.   

      And does that denominator include Northwestern students?    

      Anyway, my enquiry  has determined that residents of Skokie and Wilmette use their libraries more.  

       

      Skokie:

      Service Population 63348 residents
      Collection size 421686 volumes
      Annual Circulation 1654467 transactions
       

      Evanston:  

      Service Population 74239 residents
      Collection size 492448 volumes
      Annual Circulation 880561 transactions
       

      Wilmette:

      Service Population 27651 residents
      Collection size 245419 volumes
      Annual Circulation 708517 transactions

       

      So it appears that in Skokie and Wilmette there is greater demand, per capita,  for libraries…yet they only have one library each.    Maybe it is because they have nicer collections, because they aren’t spending money on maintaining three libraries (again, that whole economy of scale thing)

       

       

       

      1. Digital periodicals still cost

        If your statement "Many periodicals are no longer necessary" is based on the assumption that many periodicals are now on the Internet, and therefore free — you are only half correct.  Only a few commonly-used periodicals and newspapers are free on the Internet.  The majority of substantial, high-quality periodicals and similar publications (e.g., the ones that students and people who work from home most often need) cost money to license/subscribe even on the Internet.  Especially if you want more than just the current issue.  All libraries pay large subscription fees for Internet access to digital periodicals, databases and reference sources.  Halving the periodicals budget is a  huge drop in access to information and not just for fringe materials.

        1. No, some periodicals are no longer relevant

          If your statement "Many periodicals are no longer necessary" is based on the assumption that many periodicals are now on the Internet, and therefore free — you are only half correct.

           

          No, it was based on the idea that some periodicals are no longer relevant or worth the cost.  This would include more popular ones such as ‘Newsweek’  which no longer seem relevant and have little specialty or scholarly value – to obscure ones like ‘The Phyllis Schlafly Report’, which seems redundant since anyone who wants to keep informed about the latest events in the Crazyshphere can watch Fox News.

          Many of these periodicals really no longer serve a purpose in the age of the internet.  Just like almost nobody looks up stock prices in newspapers anymore, few people read ‘Newsweek’ to keep up with the week’s events.

           

          W. Knows,  Doctor of Bibliotechnological Science

    2. appointed boards?

      Jeff – you’ve indicated you are in favor of appointed boards, if I am reading you posting correctly, and feel that what the city council does is political – more or less robbing the library system.

      What I want to know is – how is the citizen to exert control over spending when those setting the spending levels are not elected? I would hope that appointees know something about the area of their responsibility, yet isn’t it natural that they will be protective of their turf, viewing it to the exclusion of other areas that require our money as well?

      Is anyone appointed to a board because they are pledged to cut spending in the area over which they are to have control? Even with elected boards, the school boards for example, do we see candidates pledging in their campaigns to cut the cost of schooling? Rather, they pledge to make the schools work better and to value every child, etc. which, once they are elected, translate to a protection of all funding, if not a request for more. This is a direct result of being tasked with only one area to which the person becomes devoted, a turf that becomes owned.

      The city council has not functioned as we would have wished, but at least they have authority to call all agencies to account for spending in a single forum where the public can attend. The council can closely examine, can study competing claims with the aid of the city manager and make decisions for which they are directly accountable to the electorate, for the good of the whole city, not for the good of the library alone, or any other single public agency. You place a high priority on funding the library system, saying that they don’t get the money to which they are entitled. Others will step forward with different priorities. In times when money must be cut, who comes out ahead? One lump tax or two dozen taxes, it all comes from one pocket, the taxpayer’s.

      Professionalism is a good thing but professionals must, as with everyone else, be constrained and assessed when spending money. Left to themselves, can’t we count on them to always tell us they are doing a terrific job with not enough resources? When money has to be cut, as has been happening recently, won’t the talk of damage become shrill from every quarter?

      Am I, a taxpayer, to undertake a study on each independent board to see if my money is well spent? How could I even find out if the mosquito abatement program, for example, is well run? The natural place to go would be to the mosquito abatement district! How can I personally compare what the mosquito program does for a dollar with a dollar spent for fire-truck accessories? Who is minding each store that doesn’t have an interest in saying all is well?

      The electorate has no expertise for this, nor should they have to devote the time to analyzing the performance of a host of board members for a multitude of agencies. This is exactly why we elect city council members – because we expect the candidate of our choice to use his/her own wisdom to act for us with oversight of the bureaucracy, as the agencies of the bureaucracy come before the council, each to make a case.

      If the council performs poorly, let’s clean house. That is the way the system should work, not with the proliferation of boards that place the taxpayers one step further away from control and neuter the city council that had that control. I’m encouraged lately by some new council members showing backbone.

      Professional appointees – sounds great, but professionals will reach into our pockets just like politicians, particularly if we cannot directly remove them.

       

      1. Elected v. appointed boards

        Jeff – you’ve indicated you are in favor of appointed boards, if I am reading you posting correctly, and feel that what the city council does is political – more or less robbing the library system.What I want to know is – how is the citizen to exert control over spending when those setting the spending levels are not elected?

        Good points, Clif.  I wasn’t indicating approval or disapproval. There are arguments both for and against appointed v. elected boards. The MWRD is elected, but has that made it more responsive to the electorate? I think its operation is still pretty opaque to most voters. OTOH, Metra is appointed and obviously exercised little oversight over what its chairman did. I have tended, historically, to favor popular elections where what a body or office does is more like legislation, but not where what it does is more administrative, or warrants some measure of insulation from politics. Also, in a smaller jurisdiction like a city it may be easier for citizens to keep an eye on an agency.

        Would you favor making McPier an elected body? The Port Authority? Is today’s ballot too short? 🙂

        Also, I wouldn’t say that the Council has "robbed" the library system. I’d say that the library has been put on a lean diet, and made to compete with other discretionary services, when the intent of state law and Evanston’s establishment of the library is that it is supposed to be an institution rather than, say, a summer jobs program that we decide one year to simply de-fund.

        I would hope that appointees know something about the area of their responsibility, yet isn’t it natural that they will be protective of their turf, viewing it to the exclusion of other areas that require our money as well?

        Yes. And I’d say that in the case of a library board, that is what the law intends. Library board members are referred to as trustees, suggesting a fiduciary duty to the institution.

        Is anyone appointed to a board because they are pledged to cut spending in the area over which they are to have control? Even with elected boards, the school boards for example, do we see candidates pledging in their campaigns to cut the cost of schooling? Rather, they pledge to make the schools work better and to value every child, etc. which, once they are elected, translate to a protection of all funding, if not a request for more. This is a direct result of being tasked with only one area to which the person becomes devoted, a turf that becomes owned.

        As you recognize, this can happen regardless of whether the board is appointed or elected. In the case of the schools, until the establishment of consolidated municipal elections, there were different electorates for school board elections than for other elections, and the dynamics did not favor fiscal conservatives. But that’s a whole other discussion.  I believe that an elected library board would be doing exactly what the current appointed Board has done — not because of turf protection, but because it is legally correct.

         The council can closely examine, can study competing claims with the aid of the city manager and make decisions for which they are directly accountable to the electorate, for the good of the whole city, not for the good of the library alone, or any other single public agency.

        The library was established by referendum and the allowable levy, likewise, by Evanston taxpayer referendum (and then sweetened slightly by the state legislature). If the board wanted to raise taxes above current levy limits they’d again have to go and seek permission from the voters. This, to me, is a reasonable check on runaway spending. Not throwing the library into the same political pot as all other city budget items is exactly the point of the legislative scheme.

        You place a high priority on funding the library system, saying that they don’t get the money to which they are entitled. Others will step forward with different priorities. In times when money must be cut, who comes out ahead? One lump tax or two dozen taxes, it all comes from one pocket, the taxpayer’s.

        You don’t always cut taxes in tough economic times. This depends somewhat on your economic philosophy. Some expenditures are investments that pay for themselves; some, many times over. I believe that libraries are a high-payback expenditure for numerous reasons, that benefit all of Evanston.

        Am I, a taxpayer, to undertake a study on each independent board to see if my money is well spent? How could I even find out if the mosquito abatement program, for example, is well run? The natural place to go would be to the mosquito abatement district! How can I personally compare what the mosquito program does for a dollar with a dollar spent for fire-truck accessories? Who is minding each store that doesn’t have an interest in saying all is well?

        Citizenship ain’t always easy.  I’d argue that we pay little more attention to the average consent agenda expenditure than we do to mosquito abatement expenditures. The question you ask is a huge question, and a good one. Keep asking it.

        The electorate has no expertise for this, nor should they have to devote the time to analyzing the performance of a host of board members for a multitude of agencies. This is exactly why we elect city council members – because we expect the candidate of our choice to use his/her own wisdom to act for us with oversight of the bureaucracy, as the agencies of the bureaucracy come before the council, each to make a case.

        We have a city manager form of government. We have aldermen and a mayor who are not paid a fulltime salary. So there is already an enormous delegation of judgment to non-elected people in Evanston. The schools? Even more so. The Library Board currently is appointed by an elected official with the consent of other officials we elect — using the same wisdom you cite, presumably. If the Council believes that it would be better to have an elected board, that is easily done. But I don’t think that asking the Council to micromanage the libraries is either fair or wise.

        1. The wrong battle

          Jeff, I appreciate your clear-headed response regarding the Library Board’s actions.  If, in point of fact, the city were moving to close/eliminate/severely reduce ALL library services, then yes, I might agree with your assertions.

          This is not, however, the case.  We have a fabulous main branch library.  If it needs improvement, then have the Board focus on those improvements.  Main branch is not accessible?  Find ways to improve that (free shuttle buses? re-establish the bookmobile?)  By focusing all the attention on an inefficient, and inequitable (yet beloved) branch library system, our overall library services quality suffers.

          Skokie has an AWARD-WINNING library.  I believe they won those awards by focusing their efforts on creating a terrific SINGLE BRANCH system supplemented by a bookmobile to provide outreach to citizens who cannot get to the library for whatever reason (access, handicap, transportation, etc.)

          Again–no one is threatening to eliminate the Evanston Public Library.  You are quite right, it is an institution that is vital to our community.  However, no community less that 8 square miles needs 3 (or 4!) libraries.

          If the Library Board truly felt that library services were threatened, then they could call for a referendum vote and get approval from the citizens, instead of doing an end-around of the city’s budget process.  I believe the legal statute they used was intended to prevent small towns in rural communities from unilaterally cutting library services at times of budget crisis.

          Again–no one is threatening elimination of the Evanston Public Library.

          1. what’s good for GM is good for Evanston

            Evanston should have one fabulous downtown library, with lots of computers and an espresso bar for enquiring minds, instead of trying to support three libraries.

            We should follow the example of GM – instead of trying to support eight brands, it eliminated Oldsmobile, then Pontiac and Saturn and Saab and Hummer , so it could concentrate on making better Chevrolets.  Ford dumped Mercury.  Chrysler dumped Plymouth.  

            The EPL should dump its branches and focus on the main library.

        2. thanks Jeff and some library thoughts

          Jeff, thanks for your comprehensive response. It indicates the kind of dialog possible online. You and I could never have had such an immediate exchange within the pages of any newspaper that comes out weekly, nor could the quoting you helpfully included be easily done in print.

          As an aside on the library itself – I love the Evanston Library and have used it often. I walk to the main library, about a mile and a half from my home (only two blocks from the north branch, that I never use). If I am in a rush, I ride my bike. I must confess, however, that the Wilmette library, being closer, is where I go most often. While the EPL building is a marvel to behold, I can’t help noticing what an efficient package the Wilmette libary building is – no awe-inspiring high ceilings and elegant architecture as with the EPL, but books everywhere and still (especially with the just completed renovations) a brightly lit open feeling.

          Having recently acquired a Kindle after long resisting one, I see the future and it doesn’t look lined with shelves of books. I’ve discovered what others report is true – I am able to read much faster on the Kindle (and I don’t try to rush when I read). This lightweight gadget seems to disappear as I get into the text – Anna Kerenina at the moment. With an old laptop acquired for $100 at my chair as I read, I can instantly find information on anything that arouses my curiosity without the need of a librarian to help. The cost of electronics is always headed down, while the sheer volume of published material is exceeding the ability of libraries to keep up their stock.

          Imagine "checking out" electronic books for two weeks and never a wait for someone else to return a book! Nothing is involved but processing on a server and automatic expiration. No lugging books around, no need for inter-library loans. In fact, no physical plant beyond a server room. This might be a librarian’s vision of hell and no doubt there will be a fight-to-the-death as the issue becomes unavoidable, but I would encourage everyone to give electronic readers a try. I find it in no way inferior to a book, but superior for all the features no book could ever have – and it eliminates the eye-strain of reading off a PC monitor to boot.

          Oh, and I shouldn’t close without revealing my library fantasy – full access to the NU library! When I worked for NU, I could use it and it was like ascending to the top of Mt. Olympus – there was never any book, no matter how obscure, that they didn’t have. But I must go before severe depression at the loss of my Wildcard overcomes me!

          1. Severe depression at the loss of my Wildcard

             It is possible for retired staff and emeritus faculty to retain their wildcards.

            Access University Libraries

            Access to Northwestern Computing Resources

            With emeritus status your Internet access can be maintained. Without emeritus status you will need to complete a retiree Wildcard and Internet access request form. This form should be mailed to your home shortly after retirement. This includes access through Northwestern to the Internet and continued access to e-mail accounts. Retirees can participate in all University hardware and software purchasing programs for which individual faculty or staff purchases are allowed. Retirees with Northwestern e-mail accounts are reminded that e-mail accounts must be active and that passwords must be changed every 120 days. Failure to change passwords will result in being locked out of your e-mail account until you reactivate that account in person at the computing center. Moreover, failure to change passwords may result in the closing of the account and the deletion of any e-mail received by that account

            See here.

            You should enquire with the HR office for more information.

    3. The Library fund is an irresponsible move

      Jeff Smith says,

      "First, all that the Library Board has done is to move toward independent, responsible, and non-political management of the libraries. That’s no radical change"

      The Library Board without any public hearings voted itself as a new taxing body. The Library Board circumvented the difficult budget cutting decisions by deeming itself the power to tax. Every city department, except the Evanston Fire Department, got a haircut in the budget cuts. The Library now won’t have to suffer any budget cuts. In fact, there’s room for the Library Board to increase the library tax levy. That’s a radical and arrogant change and a slap in the face of the city manager and others who worked on balancing the budget.

      Smith says the library tax levy moves the library to a more "responsible and non-politcal management" of the library system. That’s silly talk. In fact, the opposite is true.

      First, the ELECTED Council makes fiscal decisions regarding the library’s budget. If voters disagree with the City Council’s managment of the city library system, why they can vote them out. Right? Well now, if voters don’t like the direction or amount of tax levy the Library Board heaps on them, they can vote…oh no…they can’t vote them out.

      As for the political end, well now that the Library Board has taxing power, a seat on the board is more coveted and the mayor would be more inclined to appoint a friend or return a political favor and seat someone on the board (see Blago trial to understand Chicago-style politics). Smith seems to justify the appointment aspect of the Library Board with the false logic that there are other taxing bodies with appointments. It’s my understanding that if the City Council wanted, the Library Board could be an elected taxing body. But no. More hints that the mayor and Council knew the Library Board was planning to declare itself a taxing body all the while Evanstonians were donating money to keep the branches open.

      I wonder if Smith, who sits on the board of  the Evanston Public Library Friends (EPLF), supports giving the nearly $170,000 it received in donations to keep the branch libraries open? The people who donated money to keep the branches open will now pay a library tax. The donated money is no longer needed now that the Library Board can tax citizens to pay for the current and proposed new branches. Give the money back. Yet, the EPLF’s website is still seeking donations. How shameful.

      Smith claims the new library tax levy is cost-nuetral "if there were no change in the library budget."

      Ah, more silly talk. If the library tax levy is "cost-nuetral," then how pray tell can Smith explain the Library Board’s declaration that not only would the branches remain open (remember they were just cut in the city budget) but board members talked about opening more branches!!!!!  How can you keep the branches open and open more branches and still use the budgeted monies for the library system?

      You can’t. Folks, this power grab is simply a tax raise.

    4. With all due respect…

      Jeff, I appreciate your comments and know full well that you are a community organizer and have taken this cause up which is very kind of you.

      However, with all due respect… I just do not get it.  I see no purpose for keeping the branches open when we have a main library facility within 8 miles for the entire community to use.

      I do not understand why the preferences of the few to keep these branches open has to affect the majority with this propsed tax by the Board. 

      I do not understand how this Board can have the audacity and gall to go in this direction.

      To cut to the chase – in a troubling economic time, with the pension fund upside down and the city budget underwater, unemployment and foreclosures, is this really a prudent calling?   Again, we have a main library.

      Frankly, if you want to keep the branches open, fine.  But raise the money on your own. 

      Begin treating this endevour like a business and not like an entitlement.  Charge to rent items, charge for memberships to the branches so the people who use it pay for it. 

      Do not rely on us to pay for your wishes and what other communities do has absolutely no bearing on our status as Evanston residents.

    5. Too fast, too disruptive

      During the library board meeting, member Dona Gerson argued that the board was moving too fast in imposing the tax this year and that it should take a year to gather community input before making the switch. "This is too fast and disruptive," she said.

      Gerson has a point.  Why wasn’t there ‘more study’?  

      I wonder why we aren’t hearing more objections from the prominent members of Evanston’s NIMBY community.  It seems that whenever someone proposes building something or granting a zoning variance, they come out and say "more study is needed" when they want to delay things forever.  We saw that with the Tower, with the former Kendall lot, with the Central & Eastwood project.  "More study is needed."  

      So why didn’t the NIMBYs demand  ‘more study’ when the library board pulled this little stunt?   Shouldn’t they have had endless rounds of public comment, discussion, and study before trying to change the library funding system?

    6. Defense of Unaccountable Board

      Jeff, I find it a bit humorous that someone who ran for the state legislature is eschewing "politics" and that you can somehow claim that having an unelected body determine taxes is "more transparent" than our current system of library financing.

      Your examples of the RTA, Mosquito Abatement District, etc… are beside the point.  Their makeup–like that of library districts–is determined by state law.

      In the case of the Library Board, they have choices under the law.  They could have pursued their independence and financial sustainability by establishing a library district which would be accountable to the electorate.  

      Instead, they chose to avoid accountability by taking advantage of a loophole in the law.

      They could have taken the higher, more ethical pathway but they didn’t.

      You may be fine with appointment rather than election–perhaps that’s a product of February’s results in the 18th district primary–but I would gather that most taxpayers in Evanston would think otherwise.

  9. Book and Periodicals

       This is not a criticism of the EPL for its decisions—they are just facing a budget reality.

       In the last year or so they have cut a number of periodicals [or been unable to add] that are what I’d consider general popular or semi-popular science periodicals.  Likewise they use to purchase almost every book I recommended that was of the same general popular or semi-popular level.   Some of the reason is that they [now] consider them to specialized or that NU has them.  I don’t know how many non-NU affiliated residents use the NU libraries so I can’t say if that is a meaningful alternative—they can get to the periodicals but not check-out books—and some of these are in the Math and Science/Engineering libraries, not the Main.   Also NU has restricted hours which means access is 8:30-5 M-F and 8:30-noon Saturday [Math is not open weekends].

       I doubt the figures [visits, circulation or budget] given for the branches but I really have to wonder if the branches were cut, romance/mystery and alike novels cut and some of more ‘pop’, ethnic, special interest, one-sided periodicals were cut, if the budget problem would ease.

  10. Kindle and EPL

    My understanding is that ebooks can only be checked out according to how many ecopies the library has.   If they have one, only one person can have it at a time.  Correct ?

    As far as I know EPL has not started this.

    Until they get ebooks that you can fully underline and make notes and where TeX [etc.] fonts/characters can be converted to ebooks and graphs etc. are not so small to view, a lot of people won’t be interested.

  11. The City Council knew this

    The City Council knew this was going to happen. Interesting that they DID IT ON A SPECIAL  MEETING so no one could attend.

    Mayor knew this Board was in favor of keeping the branches open and had support of the Friends group that why they were appointed.

    You think your property taxes won’t go up?  Think again. You think the city will lower the amount of its levy by the amout the Board is grabbing?

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