Alderman Coleen Burrus told residents at a 9th Ward meeting Thursday that Evanston is in the dark ages in the way it delivers library services and needs to close the branch libraries.
"We need a strong flagship main library," Burrus told the generally supportive group of about a dozen people meeting at the Ridgeville Park District fieldhouse on South Boulevard.
"Only a select few people benefit from the services at the branches," she said. "I don’t see it as a way to bring the community together."
"It’s financially irresponsible to spend as much money as we are for a small number of people," Burrus added. "I believe strongly in education, but not to have fiefdoms for a small select group of people."
"If we’re talking about community, we should have computers in all the community centers, and work with people like the Ridgeville District as well," she said.
With public access computers at the recreation centers and people able to access more library resources from their home computers, "that would be really delivering services to all of Evanston, and we’re not doing that now," she added.
"It’s a ruse to put in a shelf of library books" at the Robert Crown Center, Burrus said of recent outreach efforts by the Evanston Public Library Friends group and the Library Board. "It’s a slap in the face to our part of the city" to have a token presence in some parts of town while having full branch libraries in others.
And she said the existing South Branch library should really be called the "East Branch" because of its location on Chicago Avenue, just a few blocks from the lake.
"I support strong funding for libraries, but not the branches the way they are," Burrus said.
One woman at the session challenged the idea of making more use of computers instead of library branches — saying it was important for people to be able to hold hard-copy books in their hands.
But a man sitting in the back of the room responded by holding up the Kindle wireless book reader he’d been gazing at during the meeting and suggesting it worked just fine as a substitute for traditional books.