Despite the fact that its budget is in good shape, the Evanston Library Board of Trustees voted Wednesday night to close its doors on Nov. 10, not because it has to pinch its pennies, but because the City of Evanston is in financial difficulty.
The move is one of the peculiar effects of the fact that the library, a few years ago, shifted from being a city department to becoming a taxing body of its own.
Even though it is no longer technically a unit of city government, library employees are still members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and are in the same bargaining unit as city employees.
Because the city is feeling the effects of declining revenues from building permits due to an easing of the building frenzy on the Northwestern University campus, the city has negotiated a day off without pay for its employees on Nov. 10, and that applies to the library employees as well.
So the trustees were faced with the fact that the library’s employees would have to take the day off without pay, and they weren’t happy about it.
“This does not sit well with me in any way, shape or form,” declared trustee Adam Goodman, who at first abstained when the vote on the motion to close its doors Nov. 10 was taken, but then changed his vote to a “no.”
While she sympathized with the unhappiness of her board, Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons said “well we can’t ask our staff to work and not get paid.”
Board President Benjamin Schapiro cast a “reluctant” yes vote, but asked Lyons to suggest to the board ways that the effects of the closure “can be mitigated.”
He added: “We will get blowback for an action we must take even though we don’t have to do it because of our finances.“
The furlough action is expected to save the city some $120,000. The pay for all Evanston Public Library employees will be reduced by the same percentage for the pay period, Danczak said, and all savings from library employees will remain in the Library Fund.