The Evanston Library Board tonight rejected a request from the City Council that it devote some portion of the library’s $2 million endowment to keeping the branch libraries open.

After getting tied up in procedural knots for several minutes trying to decide how to frame a motion to debate the issue, the seven board members present took only a couple of minutes to dispose of the idea.

Board member Christopher Stewart said the endowment funds should only be used to build the library’s collection of books and other materials.

“To reduce spending in any way on the collection, when the endowment is already down, I think would be shortsighted,” Stewart said.

Member Gail Bush added that to use the endowment funds for branch operating costs would be to “use it for a purpose not intended.”

Member Lynette Murphy said that to use the endowment for operating expenses would be “opening Pandora’s box.” If the money was used now for the branches, next it would be to pay for main library operations, “and all of a sudden we’d no longer have an endowment.”

She called the idea floated by aldermen “a ship running amuck.”

The library board’s policy document says endowment funds are to be used to “supplement and enhance the LIbrary’s collections, operations and facilities, never to diminish in any way the funding for the Library that is provided by federal, state or local governments.”

Under the convention that annual spending from endowment accounts should be limited to about 5 percent of the total assets to avoid diminishing the principal balance available for future use, the library’s endowment could yield roughly $100,000 in spendable income a year.

The city now spends nearly $5 million a year on library operations. The estimated actual spending to buy new books and other materials for the current year, excluding computer database licenses, is $406,000, down from a budgeted level of $490,000.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewitz, as part of his plan to eliminate a $9.5 million shortfall in the city’s general fund budget, has proposed trimming the library budget by nearly $850,000 — mostly through employee layoffs that would result from outsourcing cataloging operations and closing the branch libraries.

Under the budget plan, the spending on new materials for the library’s collection, excluding computer database licenses, would drop to about $360,000. The biggest savings would come from eliminating purchases of books and periodicals for the branch libraries, but there would also be a major cut in purchases of periodicals at the main library, and smaller reductions in purchases of books and audio-visual materials there.

Funding for computer databases would drop just one percent, to $90,200.

In response to protests from branch library fans, the aldermen have tentatively voted to keep the branches open for six months to give the supporters time to raise funds to make the branches self supporting.

But, as library staff said during tonight’s board meeting, that decision could be reversed by the City Council when it meets Saturday morning and Monday evening for additional sessions on the budget.

The new budget is scheduled to go into effect March 1.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on 2/18/10 at 7:26 a.m. and again at 11:55 a.m. to clarify the library budget figures.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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10 Comments

  1. Thank goodness!
    I’m thrilled that the library board has taken their leadership and stewardship responsibilities seriously and not raided the library’s endowment for a shortsighted purpose. The city so under-supports the library as a whole that the endowment is essential, along with the annual fundraising, to building the library’s collection. Bravo library board!

  2. Closing the branch is best
    Closing the branch is best for the endowment. This means there are less (branch) libraries to add to the collection. Current books in the branch can be some how used in the Main somehow so there will be less need to use endowment for Main.

    If Main library closes in next several years because Evanston overspent itself silly, then there will be no more library. Perhaps then city can use the endowment for operations.

    1. Schools may for the Branches ?
      Since some parents seem to feel the branches are necessary for kids education [and thus their schools must be failures], perhaps the funding for the branches could come from a reduction in the schools budgets. E.g. each schools contribution to the branches [whole] budget would be in proportion to the distance from the school to the branch or the payment weighted by the number of students and distance from the branch.

  3. Neocons support branch libraries?
    I am puzzled by the quote that appears at the top of the branchlove.org website:

    “Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions — it only guarantees equality of opportunity.” – Irving Kristol

    Irving Kristol is widely recognized as one of the founders of the neocon movement. (You know, the people who brought us the Iraq war.)

    Why would branchlove choose to quote such an odious figure on their website?

    And how does the quote itself apply to this situation? Is it a justification for the current inequality of conditions (branch library for Central Street, but not the west side)? Are they saying “too bad, west side..we have a branch library and you don’t…that’s how democracy works”?

    1. Where is the “equality of opportunity”for westside families?
      Thank you to whoever posted the alert to the Branchlove webpage quote which appears next to their statement celebrating their recent victory at city council; Not only is this an offensive sentiment of an arch neo-conservative, but for this elite minority to use it to imply that there has ever been “equal opportunity”on this issue to all Evanston children and families throughout our city is truly insulting!! There has not been a branch library on the west side for 30 years and when we tried 9 years ago to rectify that , where were the “equal opportunity” branch love folks then ??????

      1. All animals are equal
        But some have more access to a library than others.

        Speaking of animals, I would agree with council that we have beaten this dead horse enough. My only hope is that they don’t renege in 6 months.

        There are plenty of other budget issues to address – none quite so fraught with inequity, but they’re out there.

      2. My apologies
        Dickelle,

        The mistake was purely mine and I didn’t have any idea who Kristol was — although evidently I should have. The quote merely came up on my phone as part of a famous quotes app, and I interpreted it as positive. I took it to mean that going forward there would be equal opportunity for libraries across Evanston. My apologies if it was offensive in any way to you or anyone else. That was never my intent. Our goal now is to look holistically at Evanston library services and to work to make them equal. To me, that was what the quote said.

        I commented once before on this blog about trying to get west side library services and said that we are as committed as any single group to do this. Nine years ago I was unaware of such an effort. Up until this recent library battle, we’ve never had such a unified effort. The internet and communications have changed all of that. I’ve read the 1999 report on Library Svcs to low and moderate income Evanston, I’ve asked for Ald Jean-Baptiste’s help in identifying individuals who can work to bring library svcs to the west wards, and other underserved areas of Evanston, and even posted a previous response to you asking the same. We’ve spoken to Denia Hester [the former West branch librarian] and she has given us some great information regarding the former west branch. She was my own kids’ librarian at Kingsley and I respect her opinion and involvement a great deal. The quote was my fault, and I took it to mean something positive for the future of the situation.

        What did happen 30 years ago, or nine years ago while tremendously important, shouldn’t negatively affect what CAN happen now. We want your help, and working together to make this happen will be an important part of getting library services to ALL of Evanston. My sincerest apologies. Please contact me personally if you would like to discuss this in a less public forum. In the meantime, I wish that you would consider joining our efforts. We need people who are committed to strengthening library services for all of Evanston, including the west ward.

    2. What on earth….
      are you talking about? What do Neocons and branch libraries have in common?

      WE HAVE NO MONEY PEOPLE!

      If you want your branch libraries, here is a good idea – purchase the locations and facilities from the city and run them yourselves.

      Move on folks…

  4. The Evanston fire union is more equal
    Wow, what a sad state of affairs when someone has to apologize for an agreeable quote, and when the Branchlove library website took down that righteous quote because it “offended” some people.

    The quote that is so offensive?

    “Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions — it only guarantees equality of opportunity.” Martin Luther King

    OK, MLK didn’t say this but a conservative writer did and that’s why it’s so offensive to those with differing political views. It’s not the message but who said it. This quote is true unless you believe democracy guarantees equality of conditions – there’s no such thing unless you advocate communism.

    Sadly, the library issue has evolved into a childish class issue. There are those advocating the demise of branch libraries because there are none on the west side. It’s not fair. If I can’t have one neither can you.

    Michelle Hays posted that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others – is most likely an allusion to George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm – a satire on communism. Fortunately, we don’t live in a communist state.

    In Evanston, I like to believe, all “animals” are guaranteed the opportunity to pursue wealth and happiness. If walking to a library makes you happy then you have every opportunity to live near one.

    Having said that, I agree with Michele that there other pressing issues in the budget – namely labor costs.

    Wally B. had proposed in his initial budget cuts to end the Evanston Fire Department’s overtime pay. Somehow, the fire union got that off the table. As it stands now, the Evanston Fire Department is not giving up anything of significance, which I think is shameful in these hard times.

    The Fire union will still get their annual pay increase, overtime pay, no unpaid furlough, no extra vacation time and NO EXISTING LAYOFFS!!! This as most neighboring fire departments are cutting back in the aforementioned areas.

    It’s a head scratcher to understand why the City Council is not demanding that the Evanston Fire Department put some skin in the game. The only thing I can come up with is that the Fire Union donated money and gave their support in the campaign of everyone sitting on that Council.

    I guess some animals are more equal than others, afterall.

    1. Turkmenbashi says: close the branch libraries
      Al says:
      “Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions — it only guarantees equality of opportunity.” Martin Luther King

      OK, MLK didn’t say this but a conservative writer did and that’s why it’s so offensive to those with differing political views. It’s not the message but who said it. This quote is true unless you believe democracy guarantees equality of conditions – there’s no such thing unless you advocate communism.

      There is a problem here, Al:

      MLK didn’t say that..that is exactly the point. He was called a ‘communist’ because he spoke out against the segregated system where the democratically elected legislature gave better schools, better hospitals..and better libraries…to the ruling class.

      He didn’t go around justifying inequality by pretending that there was equal opportunity. There never was equal opportunity.

      As for Kristol, since you don’t seem to think that the source of the quote ( an odious neocon ideologue who helped get this country into Iraq) is relevant, let me offer a quote against libraries:

      “Nobody reads books, people don’t go to libraries…Central and student libraries will remain; the remainder need to close.”

      — Saparmurat Niyazov (quoted here ) , better known as Turkmenbashi

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