Update 1:30 p.m. About 300 people marched down Central Street this noon to protest the planned closing of Evanston’s branch libraries.

More videos after the break

Protest organizers Jonathan Polish and Larry Lundy spoke to the crowd after the group moved across the street to Independence Park.

And with children making up much of the crowd, there were songs for the kids to sing, provided by Shana Harvey and Johnathan Polish.

Late this morning a smaller crowd, numbering perhaps 100 people, staged a similar demonstration outside the South Branch library on Chicago Avenue.

At least two aldermen observed the rallies. The City Council is scheduled to adopt a budget to resolve a $9.5 million revenue shortfall by the end of February. Closing the branch libraries would save more than $400,000 a year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Very small, vocal group so everyone can pay more?
    Evanston has about 75,000 residents. Will we allow 100 people to decide whether all of us must pay more in property taxes to save their pet project?

    Perhaps each of these 100 protesters can obtain funds of $5,000 each so that the branches can be “saved”? If not, it’s time to say goodbye to something that we can’t afford and is obselete given the costly resource (the Main Library) that we already have.

    1. Now a whopping 400 people who want to drive up taxes
      Even if there was no overlap between these two protests, we now have 400 people out of 75,000 residents who want to pay more to keep the branches open.

      To the protesters: feel free to conduct fundraising on your own to keep the branches open as stand-alone libraries.

      I don’t use either branch but I do use the Main Library. Many of us cannot afford to live in this town much longer and some of us have started checking out real estate in other cities and villages. What does that mean to you protesters? More property on the market and lower property values when you sell. The out-of-sight taxes won’t help your resale, either.

      To the aldermen, if you value the middle-income residents in this town, please give us a break. We are not ATM for everyone’s feel-good project. Go to the Main Library — you know, that huge, new building on the el line and the bus line.

      You hired a City Manager who knows what he is doing. Listen to him and do not micromanage everyone’s pet projects. Cut what he advised (every single item) and move on to other issues.

      1. Public/Private
        Fundraising is among the many options we have suggested. However, when we proposed this a few years back we were told it was ‘inappropriate’ since the main library’s children’s room was being refurbished and it would conflict. The Mayor mentioned this in her opening remarks at the first budget meeting.

        The libraries present less than 1% of the city’s budget and there are many, many more places where cuts could be made without such negative impact on the public. Closing the branches will present a $290k savings once you factor in the add’l outreach which will be necessary.

        This isn’t a pet project. They are public libraries. All are welcome, including those on fixed incomes who walk to the library to read the paper each day, or use the internet, and can’t afford pubic transportation to get to Main, or the 4,000 school kids who can walk to the branches. Evanston uses our libraries — usage at the branches is up 35% on average.

        And by the way, the 400 people at the rallies is DOUBLE the number who proposed cutting the libraries in a city-wide poll of 74,000 people. Even then, the cut was #10 on the list.

        More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition at http://www.branchLove.org asking the city for a year’s reprieve to let us figure out additional ways to fund and manage the libraries. We only need time.

  2. Library Protesters
    My guess is – each of those 100 marchers (at S. Branch) or 300 ( at N. Branch) represent about 50 residents that did not show up to march, but want to keep the branches open.

    I have no idea how one estimates such things — especially when a protest is held on a school holiday and perhaps half the participants are too young to vote — but 400 x 50 = 20,000 … just over one quarter of Evanston’s population.
    Oh, and some protesters attended both rallies.
    — Bill

  3. Children
    Maybe the parents who forced their children to protest can pay for the branch libraries out of their kids’ piggy banks.

  4. Where are the counter-protesters?
    For every person who turned out for this protest there are dozens of tax payers who think it is time to let the branches go. Do we need to organize counter-protests so that our voices can be heard? Or do we trust our elected representatives to do the right thing this time.

    1. Counter-Protesters Chill Out Already!
      No there is no need to turn out to show your hate for resources some hold dear.

      Obviously not everyone in Evanston uses the branches, or even the library for that matter, but that does not mean that it is insignificant.

      The library system is computerized, and there are ways for the powers to be to get accurate numbers by tracking the library card use of those who uses the Main Library along with the branches, who uses just branches, who uses all three, etc.

      Anne Rainey of the 8th ward was somehow able to access that information and even posted those numbers on her blog. Perhaps other Alderpersons could take her lead or anyone else who has access to that information feel free to send them to Bill to publish here.

      Whatever the case may be, the numbers exist and all of you can stop guessing and allow those that care about the library branches and those that work there, play there and learn there simply show they care.

      Will any single decision solve the budget problem? Probably not. But if you take the time to read up a little on http://www.branchlove.org you will see that there are some alternative suggestions to take libraries off the city budget but still remain open (as is done in Wilmette) which could possibly make both “sides” happy.

      Chill out.

      1. Who’s Not Paying Attention
        If you were paying attention you’d see that Bill has already posted the information about branch usage, as did Wally Bobkiewicz on his blog. Ann Rainey didn’t have to dig out the information herself. And guess what – those alternative suggestions that have been floated by branch library supporters are brand new. The branches have been on the list of City cuts for years – why haven’t they been raising money all this time? Because in the past they could just scream and yell and get what they wanted and this time it looks like that won’t work. So now they’re putting forward fundraising ideas in hopes that they’ll once again postpone the inevitable.

        Did it ever occur to you that some of us who want the branches to close actually love the library as much (or more) than you do? We’d like to see those resources be put towards the Main Library and not dissipated into very local, very small branches.

        1. RE: Who’s Not Paying Attention
          Hey thanks for the quick links to the information. Glad to see it out there, did not see it sooner. Those that felt only the rally attendees represented those that are effected can read it here too…

          517 cardholders only use the South Branch
          753 cardholders only use the North Branch
          So that is 1270 cardholders (plus their family members) that were represented by the 400 or so that turned out for the rallies.

          The total number of EPL cardholders effected by branches closing are at least 1737 if you count those that use Branch + Main libraries. So approximately 24% of all cardholders. You can also consider there are many more that use the library without going through the checkout process.

          Do these numbers create an Evanston majority? No, but the branch libraries effect them and that is something. They are allowed to speak up, and heck even suggest other possibilities. Is anyone perfect and on top of solutions before problems occur? No, obviously or there would not be a deficit in the first place.

          I don’t really see anyone “scream(ing) and yell(ing) and get what they wanted” other than “Anonlymous” posters like you that somehow feel the need to be so angry.

          Have a nice day!

          1. 1737
            1737 sure seems like a small amount of people compared to the amount of taxpayers footing the bill for the branch libraries.

            I don’t think anyone is AGAINST the branches. However we simply can not afford all of the services in our community. Although I personally did not (thankfully) use the firefighters, mental health services, etc. last year, I would much rather cut the branch libraries than those department.

            Tough choices need to be made and I commend the new city manager for making them.

  5. WOW I am so surprised at the
    WOW I am so surprised at the anger in these replies. I did not force my child to protest he asked. He is seven and loves books and the library. Here is a great way to encourage reading, learning and studying. Close the libraries!!! Start with libraries where do we go from here? The north branch of the library has been around for a LONG time, It is not what is killing our budget it is how the “leaders” of this city are managing it. Looking for the easy answer? Do you honestly think that closing these branches will SAVE Evanston? Do you believe it will lower your taxes and make it more affordable to live here? I will be interested in seeing your huge SHOCK when they close the branch libraries and OOPS the budget is still in trouble!

    1. It’s about trade-offs
      Hey, no one thinks closing the branches will save Evanston or keep our taxes down. Are you paying attention – we have a deficit and we need to close it. What are you going to trade off to keep the branch libraries? Police? FIremen? Or maybe some of the camp counselors who take care of your child in the summer. Or the lifeguards who watch him at the beach. There are lots of City services that you value and don’t want to lose, why are the the branches such sacred cows? It’s not like you won’t have a Library to go to – you just won’t be able to walk there.

  6. Community Movement
    First of all, kids were not forced by their parents to attend this rally. Kids love the branch libraries as a safe FREE place to go on an adventure with their family. Name one other free sheltered resource within walking distance for these families…anyone?

    Attending these rallies allowed kids to get involved in something that is important to them, to appreciate what a community movement means and empower them with a way to they show they care.

    Hundreds of District 65 students from every ward can and do walk to the branch libraries. Think about it…there are no District 65 schools within walking distance of the main library.

    No one is asking for higher taxes, but rather that the city take a closer look at other ways to cut costs. Some residents are merely asking for a one-year reprieve to allow supporters to unite and form a plan for a public-private partnership.

    These are some of the reasons to consider NOT cutting the library branches and perhaps look at other budget cut options.

    If nothing else, commemorate this day with this one thought from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

  7. Invention
    Wouldn’t it be great if someone could invent a piece of technology that would enable a person to access just about any book, magazine, or newspaper that is available at the library from the comfort of your own home? That way, you wouldn’t need to go out and trudge through the snow to get to your local branch library and the City wouldn’t have to pay for the building, for the employees, and for all of the expensive books, magazines and newspapers.

    Wait a second . . . someone DID invent that piece of technology!

    It’s called the INTERNET!

    1. RE: Invention
      I know this is going to come as a shock but in a community as diverse as Evanston, not everyone can afford a computer at home.

      In my experience as part of two South Evanston schools, about 1/3 or less of the families have computers at home.

      Also, libraries are a destination for families to warm up/cool off and experience events. Not just a place to read.

  8. Community Assets and the Branch Libraries
    We live in the South Branch neighborhood, which serves the 4th as well as the 3rd Ward. My kids have gone there their entire lives – one is now in high school, one in middle school. They attended Monday’s rally of their own volition to support an institution they love.

    One point to consider in this discussion is the value of community assets in different parts of Evanston. The South Branch is one of our only public assets south of Main and east of Chicago, particularly in the winter. Those who lack internet services can access the internet there. Kids learning to read and wanting a place near to home to get books can go there. Working parents, singles, seniors, everyone else can and does use the South Branch as a community resource. From visits to the North branch, I believe that the same holds true for that location as well.

    A key part of Evanston and other vibrant communities is the strength of neighborhood assets. The branch libraries are one such strength, and they bring returns more than equal to their [modest] monetary investment.

  9. Internet at branches
    Both branches only have a couple of internet computers and the few times I’ve been there I’ve not seen any ‘economically’ deprived people using them. With the number of computers, children’s room and Loft at the Main, I’d be amazed if any K-12 people would choose a branch. If I’d want to use a computer, I’d certainly realize the odds were much greater and queue much shorter at the Main, so going there would be a better use of my time rather than going to a branch and wasting time waiting—even if I lived very close to a branch.
    Since there seems to be statistics for the branches, what are the demographics by age, race, economic status and location of those using the branch ? Certainly if staff and neighbors want to save the branches, they would have complied at least age and distance from the branch if not at least ‘observational’ note of race and economic status. I suspect the results are heavily white, stay at home mothers, those over 60 and live within four blocks and family incomes over $80,000 unless retired, and come for the newspapers or pick-up modern novels and stay less than 1/2 hour and come every two weeks—mostly to return books.

  10. This is ridiculous
    Personally, I would love it if I could call or e-mail the library and someone there would check my book out for me and hand deliver it to my house.

    I would bet that a lot of underprivileged people, children, retirees and other lazy people like me would also love to have that service, and I could probably get 50-100 of them together to stage a protest demanding that the service be offered.

    But you know what? There are a lot of things that I would love to have the city do for me, but they are TOO EXPENSIVE and the city cannot afford to do them.

    So I bite the bullet and go to the library to check out books (the Main Library, even though South Branch is closer). I may be lazy, but I try not to be selfish and I try to think of what is good for the community, not just me personally!!!

  11. Are You Serious
    As much taxes as we residents pay and the city officals waste you cant keep our libraries open! What’s up Mayor, your kids grew up using these libraries, give up the $$$$

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