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Design unveiled for new library branch

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.

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