Evanston aldermen today appeared to reject creating a separate library taxing district, but asked the city manager to develop a plan to keep the branch libraries open for one more year.

At the City Council’s budget workshop session Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said a new library board would not be likely to reduce the total tax burden on Evanstonians and would be more likely to increase it.

So, she said, it doesn’t solve the problem for people like her who are interested in keeping the tax burden down so the city doesn’t increase the risk more residents will fall victim to foreclosures.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes the South Branch library, said she’s opposed to cutting the branches and wants to give library supporters a year to come up with funding solutions for them.

“It would be cutting off our nose to spite our face if we don’t give them that time,” Wynne said.

She said that, like the mayor, she opposes creating a separate library taxing authority. “The main library building still has significant debt remaining, she said, and a new library district likely would be unable to pick up. She also said she doubted a separate district would keep taxes down.

Wynne added that she also opposes funding the branches through a special service area tax district that would target properties near the branches.

But Alderman Judy Fiske, whose 1st Ward includes special service districts for downtown development, said the idea had merit.

“If you’re going to argue that branch libraries stimulate business traffic, then we should try that option,” Fiske said.

Alderman Don Wilson, whose 4th Ward adjoins the South Branch and might be included in a special taxing district for it, said he’d like to see the special tax district idea taken off the table. Wilson said he wanted to see a library funding plan that serves the entire city, including the west side.

Alderman Jane Grover, whose 7th Ward includes the North Branch, said the city needs a better business plan for the branch libraries and suggests that if the city, as proposed, hires a development officer, that new staffer could help in finding additional revenue sources for the libraries.

But Fiske said she has doubts about the long-term fund-raising capability of the branch library supporters, though she wants to see both the branches and remain strong.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she tended to support the idea of a one-year reprieve for the branches to try to develop new funding sources and Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he agreed that that might be a workable solution.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, urged that the city manager look into ways to deliver branch library services to the west side of town and also consider the possibility of using more volunteers to staff the branch libraries.

“As we consider how to pay for these things, we also need to think about equity,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Branch Library costs can’t be an efficient use of taxpayer money
    Did anyone ask for traffic numbers at the branches? I’d be curious how many visitors those branches see on an average day.

    If they get 50 per branch per day, I would be shocked. Frankly I’d be surprised if they got 20/day. Anyway if both locations got 50 patrons per day that would be approximately 25,000 annual visitors to the branches (50 patrons x 2 locations x 5 days/week operational x 50 weeks/yr = 25K). At a cost of $425,000, that breaks down to a tax payer cost of $17 per patron each visit. I love the idea of a library being available to everyone but not at such a high expense. Please help clarify if my numbers are off. (I’d be curious to see actual traffic numbers)

    Just because these branches have been around forever doesn’t make them any more useful or valuable to the community. And as for the idea of closing a library sends a “bad message” to our kids, it seems an even worse message to pay nearly half a million dollars per year for something that doesn’t get used. Spend that money more wisely! Or better yet, dont spent it at all. I worked hard to earn it.


    More info about library usage here:
    Most Evanstonians don’t use branch libraries
    Would a branch library tax hit you?

    — Bill

  2. Kids for the Library ?
    Does anyone really believe these kids are speaking on their own ? Were they asked about the branches or Main ? Were they asked if the would prefer the branch to the Main [if their parents were not afraid to take them there were they might see or even have to associate with the under-privledged] ?
    A survey or petition [of any age group] shows what you want. Were adults asked how often they actually use a branch ? cultural center, art center open ? What would they give up to keep the branch, cultural center, etc.–city services, response time to requests, zoning commission hearings, city cable TV, fire/police ? Are they willing to volunter to staff these ? Are they willing to pay higher taxes [them alone], memberships/usage fee, a charge [50 cents, $1] for each book ?

    1. North Branch to Fleetwood-Jordan ?
      If they want the branch for children, why not move it to Fleetwood-Jordan ?
      Those who say kids use it for study, what about Oakton, Walker, Dawes—is the south branch walking distance for them ? North branch for Willard, Orrington ? The high school is probably closer to Main than the north or south branch.
      Parents seem to think their kids walk a lot more than I suspect they do and if they do, Main with the Loft and fastfood around there, etc. are probably a lot more attractive.

      1. Mini Branches in Community Centers
        It would make a lot more sense to have mini-branches in each of the community centers than dedicated branch libraries in only two places in town. They could each have an internet computer or two, some popular fiction and/or paperbacks, a small youth collection and maybe a few reference books. Just having a place in the neighborhoods where people could pick-up or drop-off books would be an advantage. They could even be staffed by volunteers, for the most part. The Levy Center already has its own library – would it be willing to add some children’s books to the collection and open itself up to people who aren’t seniors?

    2. OK, I just had to say this
      Regarding your comment- “Does anyone really believe these kids are speaking on their own ? Were they asked about the branches or Main ?”

      Barack Hussein Obama… Mmmm…Mmmm…Mmmm…….

      Sorry – I just had to reference that.

      If you want your branches – pay for them and run them on your own via volunteer work. Lets see, community organizers and volunteerism seem to go hand in hand.

      So, instead of asking for a handout (proposed taxes to support your branches) – pony up and run them yourselves. Volunteer your time to manage the branches and implement a fee based system for every book, CD, DVD that is checked out and charge for connectivity in the establishment.

      We are all hurting right now. Have a look at your 1st Installment.

      If you wamt your branches, then adopt them and manage them.

      Stop asking all of us to pay your way. We have enough entitlements now, and frankly on the way.

  3. These costs can’t be an efficient use of taxpayer money
    The cost are not justified.

    At a cost of $425,000 for these two branch locations, I think the tax payer is getting fleeced.

    How many patrons visit these libraries per day? 10? 20? For the sake of argument, lets say its 50 per branch, so 100 per day. 100 users per day x 5 days of operation x 50 weeks/year that adds up to 25,000 unique visits to the branch library. Now divide the cost of $425,000 by 25,000 users and we get a PER VISIT COST OF $17. Seventeen dollars for every mother and kid that walks in their doors. And these were what I believe to be highly inflated attendance numbers. What if it really is closer to 50 per day? That means the cost is $34 per patron per visit. Insane.

    How can they perform a public inquiry and discussion/debate without these numbers?

    I agree with JohnF, if the city wants to charge a membership fee like they do at the sports facilities, I’d vote in favor. These are tough times and its just not fair to have all the tax payers footing the bill for something so few use.

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