Evanston aldermen voted 6-3 tonight to close the city’s two branch libraries.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said all the poor and needy people that branch library supporters claimed would be hurt if the branches close are the very people who would be most affected by the tax increases that would be needed to save them.

Evanston aldermen voted 6-3 tonight to close the city’s two branch libraries.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said all the poor and needy people that branch library supporters claimed would be hurt if the branches close are the very people who would be most affected by the tax increases that would be needed to save them.

“The branches are redundant,” Rainey said, though if money were available she “would love to keep them open and add five or six other branches all over town.”

Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes the South Branch, and Alderman Jane Grover, whose 7th Ward includes the North Branch, and Alderman Mark Tendam, who’s 6th Ward adjoins the North Branch site, were the only aldermen who voted to keep the branches.

They all argued in favor of giving branch supporters more time to try to find private funding for the branches. And even they conceded that if funding couldn’t be found within a year, they would be less inclined to keep the branches open.

But Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the idea of getting foundation grants for operating support for library salaries was “a pipe dream.”

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he is opposed to raising taxes and he couldn’t see a way to get the branches into the budget without having to approve a tax increase.

He said he saw no reasonable alternative for some of the services on the chopping block — but there is a reasonable alternative for the branches, he said — the main library downtown.

At a ward meeting Wilson held a few weeks ago, more speakers opposed continued funding for the branches than favored the idea.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she initially favored keeping the branches open, but only if a way could be found to make them pay for themselves. She said she was very disappointed that branch library backers showed no inclination to back creation of special service area taxing districts that would tax people who live near the branches to cover their costs.

Fiske and other aldermen also said they couldn’t accept the idea of closing the main library on Fridays and otherwise shortening its hours to help come up with the money to keep the branches open, as City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had proposed.

The aldermen did vote to not try to immediately sell the city-owned North Branch building, in the hope that supporters might somehow come up with enough financial backing to reopen it.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. Check Out The Irony!
    Alderman Wynne champions a Million Dollar Toilet outside her ward and then the city can’t afford to keep the branch library that’s actually in her ward. I’d make a literary allusion to the rich irony here, but the library is closed and I can’t look it up. So how about a barnyard analogy? Wynne laid an egg with her Million Dollar Toilet and now the chickens have come home to roost.

  2. Hurrah! Hurrah! Kudos to
    Hurrah! Hurrah! Kudos to the City Council on reaching an eminently reasonable decision within the context of these uniquely challenging economic times.

  3. Lame
    I am very disappointed with the city council. I’m sorry, but the branch libraries are more important that the Media Center. Youtube and the ease of getting a hold of camcorders make the center obsolete.

    1. That’s not the trade-off
      If you had been paying attention you would have realized that the City Manager proposed closing the Main Library one day a week to find the funds to keep the branches. It was never a trade-off of the Media Center for the branches. (The Media Center budget is less than half that of the branches.)

      If camcorders make the center obsolete, are you volunteering to hold one on a school board or city council meeting that lasts four hours?


      Fact check:
      The media center’s subsidy from the city totals about $440,000 a year. The saving from closing the branch libraries is pegged at $425,000 a year. One is not half of the other. The proposed cut in the media center subsidy is $200,000. That is roughly half the cost of the library branches.
      Money is fungible. If you choose not to spend it on project “A,” you can instead spend it on project “B.” Just because the city manager didn’t proposed to make a particular swap doesn’t mean someone else can’t suggest doing it.
      — Bill

  4. I am disgusted with the
    I am disgusted with the aldermen, especially the ones around the South branch. They are supposed to be representing their constituencies. But then again, I think this was always in their plan, it was only a pretense that the citizens had any say.

    1. Representing this constituency quite well, thank you
      As a member of a large and vocal group of 8th and 9th ward residents who were strongly FOR the difficult, but utterly logical, decision to close the branch libraries, I feel that our alderpersons heeded the word of the majority who spoke up and pushed the foot-draggers to a final decision. Take a quick look at the service cuts that would have been necessary to keep these branches open and anyone of sound mind would conclude that it just doesn’t make sense. As someone else wisely said “It’s foolish to ignore the gas bill to pay the cable bill.” Thank goodness we have a wonderful library downtown and public transportation options abound! Two assets a lot of cities cannot claim.

  5. Why are these people elected?
    I am very disgusted with the aldermen, especially the ones that surround the South branch library who voted for closing the library. They are supposed to be looking out for their constituencies. There are lots and lots of children, who are going to be really sad, but I guess they don’t vote.

    It seems like the closures have been a goal for a while now. It’s an insult to say that it is a “pipe dream” to find funding, when no chance was given to see. Unlike the aldermen, there are some people who care about Evanston.

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