Library Board cool to user fee concept

An Evanston resident who suggested raising user fees as a way to solve the library’s funding woes got a cool reception from Library Board members Wednesday night.

Terry Wodder

Terry Wodder of 520 Hamilton St. noted that when he goes to the beach to swim he has to pay $30 for a beach pass, but "when somebody walks into the library, there’s no charge at all for membership."

"I would be happy to pay $5 or $10 or whatever" to use the library, Wodder said.

Susan Stone was the only board member who chose to respond to Wodder’s comment at the library funding forum held at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

Susan Stone

Stone, a school librarian and professional storyteller, said she’d be opposed to charging fees for book rentals or other library services. "I think they should remain free," she said.

The library currently charges $1 a week to rent a DVD, and Stone didn’t explain why videos carry a rental charge while books are provided for free. The library also charges daily fines of $1 for DVDs but only 25 cents for books.

Wodder also criticized the board’s plan to impose its own tax levy, saying that because the board is appointed and library board meetings are sparsely attended, there would "in essense be no oversight" of its actions.

He cited as an example of what could happen the recent controversy when it was disclosed disclosed that the park district board in Highland Park had awarded its former executive director a pension that Wodder said will cost taxpayers $6 million over the official’s lifetime.

Jane Grover

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, also asked how the library board could be accountable to the public when it’s not elected.

Board member Diane Allen-Jacobi responded that the board wished more people would turn out for its meetings and that board members were simply trying to do what they think is best for the city of Evanston.

Diane Allen-Jacobi

"We are more than happy to do that with you, that’s the only answer we can give you," Allen-Jacobi said.

Board member Susan Gerson said the board wants to control its own tax levy "so we can go ahead and do the things we’ve heard the citizens of Evanston want."

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