Members of Evanston’s Library Board appeared inclined Wednesday evening to not make any significant cuts in their proposed budget for next year, which calls for an 8.7 percent increase in spending.

That’s a jump more than four times greater than the current annual increase in the consumer price index.

The board had previously considered the possibility of closing its existing branch in south Evanston, at Chicago Avenue and Main Street, when the branch library at the new Robert Crown Center opens further west on Main Street early next year.

But board members Wednesday urged Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons to keep negotiating with the landlord of the CAMS branch for an extension to the library’s contract for that space, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

The library has an option for a two-year extension of the CAMS lease, and board members are seeking to convert that to two one-year options with an early out clause.

But rather than eventually scale back to three branches, some board members indicated they would like to see even more branches opened, including one farther south in the city’s 8th or 9th wards and in the 5th Ward.

The library now has branches in the 1st, 3rd and 7th wards and will gain one in the 4th Ward when the Crown branch opens.

During public comment two speakers opposed closing the CAMS branch while one said it’s time to let go of that branch in favor of additional new branch locations.

Assistant Library Director Teri Campbell said the spending increase would require a 7.4% boost in the library’s property tax levy.

The board is scheduled to adopt its 2020 budget at its next meeting on Oct. 16.

Because the library’s tax levy exceeds the cap approved by a voter referendum, the City Council could order a reduction in library spending. But it has refrained from doing that in recent years, except for rejecting a planned $10.5 million renovation project at the main library last year.

The proposed 2020 budget for the city as a whole is scheduled to be released on Oct. 4.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Let’s put a Library in Every Ward!

    That’s right – if we put a library in every ward then everyone in Evanston will be happy!

    Equity will be realized and not just talked about amongst the literary crowd.

    All children will have a safe space to attend after school and access to computers.

    Where will the money come from? The wealthy of course. Evanston could and should impose a tax only on the wealthy to fund all these new libraries and pay the operating costs.

    While earlier politicians wanted a “chicken in every pot”, today we should ask our politicians for a “Library in Every Ward”

  2. Library spending hike

    The Evanston Library is one of my favorite places in Evanston (even though I don’t live nearby) and I am a frequent visitor to EPL and to many of the nearby North Shore libraries and Skokie. No other libraries in the North Shore, Skokie, Park Ridge, Northbrook or Deerfield have more than one library; they put all their resources into one very good or excellent library. As a resident of Evanston, I think that is a good plan. I think the branches are lovely luxuries for those nearby, but we don’t have the money to fill multiple locations with books, media, equipment and excellent staff, not to mention rent in some cases. However, the the branch at the new Robert Crown Center is a done deal, and I think, is a good location for it.  Due to the long-term cost burden of that building, pension obligations, the 6% budget hike pending for District 65, the 8.7% proposed hike for the library, the looming problem of replacing or making needed but endless repairs to the Civic Center, etc. etc., I think we should be realistic and not entertain proposals for further dilution of the library’s resources. Many of us are already feeling priced out of Evanston with our staggering & ever-increasing property taxes. If we want to keep diversity in Evanston–including economic diversity– we should try to budget within everyone’s means, or we’ll soon be another Wilmette.

  3. You’ve got to be kidding!

    Just beyond insanity…..and btw, how is that “affordable housing in Evanston” thing going?

    Keeping two libraries open less than a mile apart is reckless spending, especially when it comes on top of the “once in a lifetime” District 65 tax increase, Cook County property tax increases, the Robert Crown Center, state gas tax increases.   Why not? Pile on! We have all the money in the world!

    Google Maps lists the drive time between Main & Chicago and the existing RCC as:   5 min (0.9 mile)   via Main St   Fastest route, despite the usual traffic   (their words not mine)

    I used to make the walk in 15 minutes with my geriatric dog who had to sniff everything along the way. Just imagine how quickly a student could walk or bike between these locations!

    If anyone is serious about establishing small community based libraries, the downtown library, while certainly beautiful could be sacrificed, the sale of the property along with the property tax received from it, could be used to finance a number of smaller locations – perhaps even at a savings to the current cost.  But we won’t do that. The City of Evanston has too much of an issue with “North Shore Envy”. Gotta keep up appearances with the rich neighbors!!!

    In my not so humble opinion I do not believe the board to be acting in good faith towards the community. Shiny placards with your name and a list of your civic accomplishments on them cost money after all.

    Ego ego ego. Keep asking for all the baubles Evanston Library Board, hopefully the City Council will have the courage to put taxpayers first.

    1. BTW, I’m totally kidding

      A library in every ward was meant as a joke.

      One day, and i hope sooner rather than later, some fiscal sanity will emerge in Evanston.

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