Evanston Library Board members seem destined to continue the debate about whether to maintain the city’s sole remaining branch library. But in the meantime, board member Ben Schapiro has turned up figures suggesting that Evanston has what amounts to a second library branch — in Skokie.

Schapiro says Evanstonians borrowed 8,503 items from the Skokie library last month — that’s more than the 7,058 items borrowed from Evanston’s own north branch library, and just over 12 percent as many as the 69,800 items borrowed from the main Evanston library downtown

By contrast, Skokie residents didn’t make much use of Evanston’s library, borrowing just 709 items here.

Schapiro says the numbers have stayed pretty consistent over the past year or more and that the closure of Evanston’s south branch library this spring doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact.

Skokie library officials apparently aren’t thrilled about the imbalance in patronage with Evanston and reportedly have imposed a three-items-at-a-time borrowing limit on Evanstonians.

Figures from the Institute of Museum and Library Services show that Skokie spends 162 percent more per capita than Evanston on its library, but only gets 81 percent more circulation per capita than Evanston — and for both libraries that includes books checked out by non-residents.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Book Mobile


    Do you know what percentage of that 8,503 items borrowed by Evanstonian's was from the Book Mobile?


    1. Bookmobile?

      Hi Amina,

      No idea. My guess would be that few Evanstonians would chase around looking for a Skokie bookmobile stop and, since they generally would have to be going there in their cars anyway, they'd just head for the library in downtown Skokie.

      — Bill

  2. the library

    1. Skokie's library is fabulous.

    2. They use a book mobile to "reach out"

    3. So should Evanston…nothing like emulating a system that works well.

    4. If libraries are going to be community centers, then that function should be ceded to the government.

    5. Evanston is UNLIKE Skokie and Arlington Heights and other places because for whatever combination of reasons, this government's financial planning decisions have resulted in cost over-runs and income under-runs, most probably by applying solutions that were not pre tested. 


    7. For example: privatizing: demonstrate in what cities this has reduced costs over a ten year period or greater, and produced "better" outcomes. And show how this works in concert with other services.


  3. so….?

    ….and your point? 

    I'm sure I could also borrow my neighbor's lawn mower each week vs. buy my own, but at some point that makes me a bad neighbor and a burden. 

    The fact that this many Evanstonians choose to use the Skokie library (and in fact, my own alderwoman, Jane Grover, was recently spotted at the W'mette library, which I'm sure has similar numbers crossing their border) is testament to how inferior our library system is through a starvation budget. With some committed Library Board members making our library system the best it can be, and having adopted the Library Fund model that a majority of Illinois libraries use,  I'm confident we can turn things around and increase patronage at our own libraries. Where would you rather shop, at a well-stocked store with fresh ingredients, or at a poorly stocked and disorganized shop with lots of things WAY past their sell-by date? 

    1. And the point …

      Hi Lori,

      Several points could be made from this information. Here are two:

      1. We might choose to collaborate with Skokie in some fashion and get additional library service for less than the cost of building it out independently.

      2. Skokie is getting substantially less bang for its library buck — spending, to use round numbers, three times as much per capita as Evanston spends, but only getting two times as much circulation per capita. That does not look like a model we should blindly follow — especially given rising poverty and declining incomes in Evanston.

      — Bill

  4. Why Skokie has a better library

    A deal was made a long time ago. Here it is:

    …Skokie got the tax base.

    …Evanston got the lake and Northwestern.

    Any questions?

    1. The Evanston Library

      I support the Evanston Public Library and think they have good collections.   We are overburdened with taxes and they obviously need  more funds.   I know that the Skokie Library is great but you cannot compare a wealthy town with Evanston where so many are exempted from paying taxes.  

  5. Using Skokie Library

    This does seem to argue for the fact that Evanstonians WILL drive for better services – so why can't those who live on the North side drive downtown? Apparently, Jane Grover can drive to Wilmette, so I assume she would also drive downtown if that was her only option.

  6. We’re one of the families that used Skokie Public Library

    We're one of the Evanston families who consistently used Skokie Public Library.  When we moved to Evanston in 1999, we checked out all the area libraries and quickly found that the Skokie Library was the best and have gone there approximately 3 – 4 X a month for 12 years.  We felt extremely lucky.  Their system is vastly superior to the Evanston Public Library System.  Everything is better there: the facility is filled w/ light and more attractive; they have a larger collection that is more accessible; their web-site is better designed & more user friendly; they offer more events in all age categories; they have access to computers all over the library; they have more staff on hand to help, and so on.  The only limit they had on Evanston users was no holds could be made & some newer releases could not be checked out.  Otherwise, no limits.  We checked out books, videos, DVD's, CD's, magazines, etc.  We signed up for their summer reading programs and other special programs, went to many special events, including many author visits, and joined book discussion groups.  I'm sure we added to the great imbalance of their numbers, probably checking out 20 + items a week, which is about 1,000 items a year compared to perhaps 10 a year from Evanston.  We definitely were very spoiled and will miss the Skokie Library experience.  Unpleasant & sad as it is, the Evanston Library Board needs to shut down the North Branch, which is draining resources away from the Main Library.  For outreach to the community, they should consider a book mobile.

  7. Per capita spending vs. per capita circulation

    Sorry, but everyone is pointing out how superior Skokie's facilities, staff, and programming are in addition to collections. So, surely the greater per capita spending applies to all four categories and wouldn't necessarily result in net gains in circulation. So, I don't really see how this statistic proves the point that "blind spending" results in ambiguous benefits. The benefits actually seem pretty clear to me. Am I missing something?

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