Evanston’s Public Library Board swooned over a design for a new library branch proffered by a local architectural firm Wednesday night but put off a decision about how to pay to staff it.

Evanston’s Public Library Board swooned over a design for a new library branch proffered by a local architectural firm Wednesday night but put off a decision about how to pay to staff it.

A rendering from Studio Talo of the proposed children’s story-time area with a fanciful clock hung from the ceiling, with its hour markers made from standard florescent light fixtures.

The design was presented by Thomas Ahleman of Studio Talo Architecture, who was recruited to volunteer his services by the Evanston Public Library Friends.

The friends group is proposing to pay the rent on the storefront at 900 Chicago Ave., next to a Subway sandwich shop, which the group wants the board to accept as a replacement for the existing south branch library that is closing at the end of this month.

Ahleman’s design for the 1,287 square foot space is intended to be highly flexible, with movable furniture so a children’s story-time space by day could become a meeting room for adults at night.

But Library Director Mary Johns said to keep the new space open four days a week with two part-time staff people on duty would cost $57,600 for the 10 months from March through December. Books, internet service and other costs would be extra on top of that.

The board also needs to find $68,000 if it’s to keep the north branch library open from September through December — after it adopted a budget that only provided funding for that branch through August.

Board members debated a variety of options for shifting funds around to try to come up with the extra cash including using endowment funds or book sale proceeds — but ultimately decided to schedule a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Feb. 23, to try to come up with a solution.

The new space is about half the size of the current south branch library, which in turn is smaller than the north branch.

Johns said all the cost estimates for operating a new branch are highly tentative, until more is known about the level of services that would be offered.

She added that part of the reason for higher costs at the north branch is that library staff working there have greater seniority and that she’s assuming new hires would be used to staff the proposed new south branch.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Utopian architectural plans

    In related news, I will  soon release my  architectural plans for a 99 story tower with a rotating IHOP on the top floor, a new downtown Civic Center, and a high speed maglev train from Davis St. to Midway Airport.

    None of these projects have any hope of being funded soon, but I thought that everyone would like to see my drawings.

  2. New branch library design

    Well as design drawings go the one at the top of this article is pretty bad. 

    Why stack three monitors on top of each other like that.  The book shelves, since this looks to be a children,s area are too high and what with all the stuff out of reach at the top of the shelves.  Arrows hanging from the ceiling?

    Can EN publish a drawing showing how the proposed space is expected to work as a library?

    1. Branch design

      Hi Ben,

      Answers to some of your questions came up at the meeting.

      Regarding the book shelves running up high, the answers were first that the shelves shown are intended to represent shelving units the Friends group hopes to get for free from a library in Boston, second that some of the upper space might actually be used for display space for art, and such, rather than books, and finally, that, since the space was intended to do double duty at different times for kids and adults that perhaps books for adults might go on the upper shelves.

      The stuff at the very top is intended to represent recycled accoustical panels stacked on edge, which the architect said can be obtained for free and represent an inexpensive sound proofing treatment.

      The upper monitor was described as being for projection system use, while I believe the lower ones were intended to be used as individual computer workstation monitors.

      — Bill


    2. Designers related to Central Zoning Planners?

      Are these people related to the consulting firm the city hired for the Central Street plan that wanted to put a hotel in the east stadium parking lot ?  [I'm sure the consultants said the zoning commission never said up front that was not an option, so they submitted and charged for another study].

      Neither the south branch should never have been build.  Whether this new branch will be built is still open I guess since the Council seems to have no grasp on what money or budgets are. 

      I'm sure there are many Illinois communities that would love to have a library as close as EPL Main is to any part of the city [not to mention areas being close to Skokie and Wilmette].   I come from a small town where the library had to service a community that included a rural area of over 100 square miles—including several towns that had no library.  The EPLF don't seem to realize what we have with the Main library and are willing to see it [have to] go down hill so they can have their branch.

    3. Arrows

      I am not particularly enamored by this project.  However, your question about the arrows hanging from the ceiling tells me you did not read the caption beneath the photo.  If you had, you'd know they are the "hands" of the fanciful clock mounted on the ceiling.

  3. stop the insanity

    for christ's sake. why would someone waste their time on this stupid project? there will be no branch, and even in the small chance it does open, good luck fulfilling a full lease.


  4. Save Our Borders!

    The Border's is closing in downtown Evanston?

    Quick, let's raise taxes to keep it open because people need a place to go read books.

    What? Borders is a private business?

    If you can keep both branch libraries open despite no city funding then why not keep Borders open?

    Save Our Borders (SOB)!!!!

    Or, Friends of Borders (FOB).

  5. How futuristic

    I'm so pleased to see these cutting edge designs for the new library branch. Now that we have Kindles and Nooks and iPads, I know we all are looking forward to a branch with so many books and book shelves. Of course, it's nice that they have 2 whole monitors for using the catalog and searching the Internet! The projection system is a nice touch too because we all like to come to the library and watch tv.

  6. Donation towards book/media acquisition

    I would dearly love to see the funds collected toward branches donated to improve the collection at the main library. Isn't that the core mission? I'm confused about priorities here.

  7. Stop the insanity!

    All over America, communities are doing creative things to make their libraries relevant in the new information age.  Here in Evanston, the library staff is trying hard to do those things – doing tremendous children's outreach, making ebooks accessible, having really interesting and diverse programming for teens, etc.  But a small obsessed segment of the population somehow knows better than the professionals and is focused on creating a not long-term reading room that will serve a very small number of people.

    1. Well put

      Exactly! This space seems to be designed primarily to provide a space where Southeast Evanstonians can go to pick up books. If that's all they really want, can't we find a better alternative? Honestly, for $50,000+ we could MAIL the books from the Main Library to their homes.

      What about arranging for Story Times at Adeline's Room, the children's store next door to the proposed new location? What about talking with Hemenway Church, across the street from the new location, and seeing if there is a space there to put books, Internet terminals or to read newspapers?

      Maybe the Evanston Library Friends should re-conceive themselves as Evanston Friends of Literacy and find ways to make books available to people all over the community; to expand early childhood literacy programs in childcare centers; to offer story times in public places across the community.

      The question continues to be whether spending tens of thousands of dollars to support the branch libraries in the present locations (or very nearby) is the best use of scarce resources.

  8. Cynical comments do nothing

    Cynical comments do nothing but prove the ineptitude of the person commenting.

    The negative comments on this board do absolutely nothing to progress the discussion, whether for or against.

    I do not agree that we need a South branch library and hope that the idea of breathing life into this project will soon go away, but I can at least appreciate the dedication  of the Friends group and the VOLUNTEER time and space/cost constraints that the PROFESSIONALLY ACCREDITED architect has put into this project. As a Industrial Designer who spends many hours working with very tight client budgets, I can appreciate what the architect is attempting to provide with space constraints and limited funding, if any at all.

    To systematically destroy this concept with petty, childish, and uneducated remarks only helps to disqualify any argument that the commentators put forward. You sound more like the children that might use this space during the day than the adults that would use it at night.


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