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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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. I don’t understand how you

    I don’t understand how you could say that the library board was "cool" to user fee concept when the only member who responded to the question (Sharon Stone, as you noted) said that she opposed it.  Where are you getting that information from?

    1. Let those who have voices speak

      Good question, Ben …

      The man who raised the issue asked it generally of the board members present.

      The board member who responded opposed it and no other board members spoke up to say they disagreed with her opinion. Given that they were not pressed for time (the meeting was nearly over, short of its scheduled ending time), I think its fair to assume that if there were differing views among the board members present, someone would have given voice to them — if only to give some encouragement to the man that his idea was not being totally dismissed.

      In addition, at the Saturday forum, the board’s president, Chris Stewart, mocked the idea that people should pay to read books on an electronic device like Amazon’s Kindle, suggesting that getting books free from the library is the way to go.

      Among the four proposals the "sustainable funding" task force discussed in its report, raising user fees was notable by its absence.

      No board members have responded to the story Evanston Now published two weeks ago about the library in California that is experimenting with a "fine-free" system that substitutes monthly user fees for overdue book fines.

      If it turns out that some board members are receptive to the idea of raising user fees, they are welcome to call 847-733-7526 and tell me so, or send me a note. I’d be happy to hear from them.

      — Bill


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