While all other city departments are being told to cut their budgets 5 percent, Evanston’s Library Board Monday night demanded a 11 percent spending increase.

The board voted to restore service at the north and south branch libraries from four days a week to five and made no cuts in staffing, except to convert a full-time job that’s been vacant for two years to a part-time position.

During the board’s public comment period, Kingsley School first grader Leila Cornyn said she enjoys going to the north branch library.

The vote on adding hours at the existing branches split along racial lines, after it became clear that the budget included no added money to provide branch library services in neighborhoods with large minority populations. Members Sharon Arceneaux, Mildred Harris and Lynette Murphy voting against the added hours.

The board also rejected a suggestion from the library staff to trim hours at the main library in an effort to reduce costs.

“We’re being fiscally responsible, we’re not going hog wild,” board member Gail Bush said.

Several board members indicated they have plans for further spending hikes in 2012, when they hope to dramatically increase spending on new books for the library’s collection and impose their own tax levy outside the control of the City Council.

Board member Diane Allen-Jacobi tried to shift responsibility for most of the increase onto aldermen who approved new union contracts with city workers.

“You’ve negotated the contracts and given us pension costs we didn’t have before. We don’t control that, unless we start laying off people like mad, which we’re not going to do,” she said.

The budget the Library Board approved for the 10-month period from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, totals $3,904,071.

It was not immediately clear how the aldermen may respond to the library board vote — which came in the form of a resolution rather than the formal adoption of a tax levy — or whether aldermen believe they still have the legal authority to control the library’s budget.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Library Board

      This demonstrates they are out of touch with reality.  I supsect the reaction they will cause with this will be the opposite of what they suspect and funds will actually wind-up being cut—-certainly their push for the branches and other ‘you owe us’ will cause books/periodicals to be reduced—remember that is what the library was built  for.  The way things are going, the building will be a large study hall within a few years, not a place for learning.

      For serious people who want to see serious books, NU will bear the cost.  Whether that causes them to tighten their access will be determined but with theft and computers being used for music/videos, I would expect it.

    I’d given the Board a ‘wait and see’ but this proves they are the problem instead of part of the solution.

  2. Petulant Children.

    It appears that the library board is roughly the same age as this cute little girl/gimmick that was brought out last night. This seems to be a spiteful vote with no consideration for anyone other than the board and “friends” of the library. This is absolutely ridiculous.  The library is willing to raise taxpayer dollars because they want to act like petulant children. They didn’t need to bring in the little girl, they could’ve had one of the board members read that piece of paper and it would have had the same effect. 
    If you don’t have money, but want money, use your heads and close the branches and funnel money into the beautiful main library downtown. Apparently you’re smart enough to know that a west side branch would cost too much money right? 
    Hopefully the council and Mayor do something about this.
  3. 11% of 4% equals what

    Again, folks, 11% of 4% equals .4%. Read that again. It amounts to about 80 cents per person in this community to restore the hours at the branches. Not add. Restore.

    And as to west side library: one step at a time. We have to keep what we have going now. Then we can talk about adding some services.

    The Library Board is going to hold workshops and public hearings in the spring and summer of 2011 as work begins on the 2012 budget. That is where all voices can be heard on all topics pertaining to the library.

    In the meantime the collection will fall below state standards. That should be an embarrassment.

    The fact that we are funded at 1/3 of what Wilmette provides and 1/4 of what Highland Park, Des Plaines and Arlington Heights provide should also be an embarrassment.

    The Circulation Director at Skokie Library told me that in August 2010 over 8700 materials were checked out of their library by Evanston library card holders. And Wilmette tells us that over 4000 Evanston residents use their library each month! We are a burden on our neighboring communities.

    That should be an embarrassment.

    1. Embarrassing?

      You know what’s embarrassing? 
      The fact that “friends” and board members voted overwhelmingly for the library branches over police and fire, seniors and economic development at the last board meeting. That’s embarrassing.
  4. Best Selling Author Supports Libraries

    One small detail that seemed to be overlooked in the article was the fact that Best-selling Author and Evanston native Audrey Niffenegger of Time Traveler’s Wife also came and presented to the Board about the importance of keeping the library budget strong for the future of Evanston’s children. Oh yeah, that.

    1. Best Selling Author is not an Evanston resident


      Niffengger is neither an Evanston resident, nor an expert on municipal finance or budgeting.  So her opinion is not really relevant to this story.  Neither is she an expert on child development, so I’m not sure what facts ground her assessment about  what is good for "the future of Evanston’s children."  

      The issue here is not about "supporting the libraries." Everyone in Evanston supports the libraries.  What most people outside the small enclave of North Evanston don’t support is the library board’s non-transparent, unaccountable, recklessness. 

      The main problem with the library is a board which doesn’t demand efficiency from library management.

    2. So what?

      I think this is what my logic professor would call the "Appeal to Authority" fallacy. So what if a best-selling author says we should do this. Why does her opinion carry more weight than anyone else’s? (Actually, that’s another logical fallacy, "Appeal to Popular Wisdom or "argumentum ad populum." Does the fact that her books sell more than others make her more of an authority? 

      In any case,  "importance of keeping the library budget strong for the future of Evanston’s children" begs the question of whether or not the branches should be maintained. Many, many Evanston taxpayers believe that the library budget should be kept strong for the Main library, and not frittered away on maintaining parochial branches with insufficient materials.

      No amount of small children, best selling authors or dancing monkeys will make your cause look more valid. You want to keep a service that helps a tiny fraction of the population at the expense of anything else – police, fire, main library services. You have yet to make a coherent argument for your position.

    3. Fancy schmancy non-resident says keep the branch libraries

      "One small detail that seemed to be overlooked .."

      Yes, that certainly is a small detail.  I can see why it was overlooked…it doesn’t seem to be terribly relevant.  I don’t recall anyone saying, "What does Best-selling Author and Evanston native Audrey Niffenegger have to say about this issue?"

       If Best-selling Author and Evanston native Audrey Niffenegger  jumped off a bridge, would you do that, too?    Is Best-selling Author and Evanston native Audrey Niffenegger  going to donate some of her bestseller royalties to pay for the  libraries, like Andrew Carnegie did?


  5. Appeal to Authority

    Maybe if they want to appeal to authority they could ask Kathy Reichs ["Bones"] who probably sold more books. 


    Trotting out authors [of course they want more libraries], children and dogs does not prove anything.  The libraries would probably not cut childrens books and certainly won’t cut the latest pot-boilder novel since the Friends would have nothing they want to read.  No they will cut science, math, computers, economics, history [not the latest politicans biography], and foreign language—these tend to be the most expensive and not of interest to north shore socialites. 


      Still no anwer to why the schools don’t have the books students  K-12 need, that Friends seem to maintain that the branches have and are so vital to their education ?  That said does EPL-Main have such materials that the schools don’t have—a problem the schools should answer to.


     What will be of concern is what happens with Barnes and Noble and Borders.  Both report financial problem but as we learn companies even in bankruptcy seem to go on forever.  However the quality of the books could suffer.  We once had Great Expectations a world class bookstore but it is gone.  And at least one rare book dealer and several used book stores [including Chandlers].  If the way the library budget is being handled, and it sounds like a plan for disaster, we will need the bookstores to supply the books a college student on up would want to read.  Such level of books is even missing in B&N and Borders and NU over the years has carried fewer and fewer such books [cf. B&N DePaul Loop and U.Chicago].  Well I guess we will just have to buy our of our own pockets—you can imagine what that will do to EPL loyality.

  6. Budget Priorities Survey — rigged?

    According to this article  in the Daily Northwestern, several disturbing things are happening in Evanston.

    First, some misguided NU undergraduates are working to save the branch libraries.  They need to grow up, or find a better cause to champion.

    But what’s Wally up to?  The article says:


    Keenan said she was surprised to see "Close Library Branches" among the survey’s cost-saving options after city officials said they would not consider closing the branches at last week’s budget session, which was open to citizen input.

    The branch libraries were mistakenly added to the survey options, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

    Rather than take down the live survey and make the correction, the city will not take potential votes for closing the branch libraries into consideration, Bobkiewicz said.


    So citizen’s input will be ignored?  Enquiring minds are clamoring for cutbacks in the wasteful branch library, and Wally’s not listening?

    Say it ain’t so, Wally.  I thought you were on our side.


  7. Borders to buy Barnes and Noble ?

    Several stories Dec. 7 report of a large holder of Borders pushing for Borders to buy Barnes and Noble. 

    Several years ago it appeared Borders was in trouble and B&N might buy them.  Now B&N has put itself up for sale.   Both they and Borders are not in great shape.

    With each having a store in Evanston, that could be bad buiness news.

    B&N at DePaul and U.Chicago had [have?] very good selections of academic books [I’ll speak of math/science]—not undergrad textbooks.  NU [to maybe 10 years ago] and Great Expectations had very good selections of these but now NU, B&N and Borders have very little of the sort and of course Great Expectations is gone.   Despite the university,  there is a serious lack of academic books  in our stores.  Maybe online books have made that completely a poor business that physical books can’t support—however I question that.   Even if people then buy online, I would think at least one store having a better selection would help sales.  

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