Despite claiming their goal is transparency, Evanston Library Board members today refused say how big a tax they plan to impose on Evanston property owners to provide the “sustainable” level of library services they say they want.

Despite claiming their goal is transparency, Evanston Library Board members today refused say how big a tax they plan to impose on Evanston property owners to provide the “sustainable” level of library services they say they want.

Library Board President Chris Stewart speaks at the forum session.

During a two-hour forum in the downtown library’s community room, board members mentioned a range of goals, including restoring cuts in book purchases and library staffing and expanding outreach to various neighborhoods.

But at the same time, board member Diane Allen-Jacobi said they’ve made no decision about whether to continue to fund the existing branch libraries.

Allen-Jacobi read off numbers indicating that library funding has declined by 27 percent over the past four years.

But she said “nobody is saying we are going to go out to collect” the full levy permitted under the state statute the board is relying on in its move get out from under City Council budget oversight.

Board President Chris Stewart, who used the “transparency” and “substainable” buzzwords, offered no more clarity about the actual tax level the board might impose.

Residents listen to the board’s presentation.

A memo from library staff has indicated that to generate the amount of money in this year’s library budget, the owner of a $600,000 home would pay $366 a year under the separate levy, an amount that could rise to $658 if the board raised the levy to the state-imposed limit.

The board also did not discuss how it plans to deal with the cost of pay raises for library workers next year that are already built into union contracts with the city.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz sat through the session, but declined comment after it ended.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Was there a question period at the Library “Forum”

    The article mentions that the board did not discuss key issues relating to costs of operation in any specific terms.

    I am wondering if there was actually time for asking questions of the board?  And if the board actually responded to direct questioning?

    I know that there was public comment–but was there any dialogue, with the public asking direct questions like how  they are going to deal with the union contracts or how they will deal with the fact that current subsidies to the library are not included in their budget?

    As far as I have seen, the Library Board never came up with an estimate for what their new costs will be under the new financing model.

    The library board is quick to pull out its per-capita funding figures and the trend lines mentioned by Allen-Jacobi.

    So what are the estimates to the actual change in their budget after city in-kind contributions are excluded? 

    1. Questions and comments

      After library board members and a member of the library-board appointed "sustainable funding task force" spent an hour giving powerpoint presentations and lectures explaining the board’s position, the board did entertain questions and comments from the public.

      They limited speakers to one minute and discouraged people from asking followup questions, although a few people did manage to get in a follow up.

      By my count, they received expressions of varying levels of support from seven people and questions indicating varying levels of skepticism from seven others.

      The answers to the questions were generally vague, as reflected in the story.

      1. It took an hour for the

        It took an hour for the "Sustainable Funding Task Force" to explain its position?!?!?!

        The report they gave to the City Council is 2 1/2 pages long!  

  2. “library tax” not new, not $366

    The repeated use of the "$366 a year" figure without context gives a misimpression for a number of reasons. First, this article like several before it fails to mention that any homeowner who would pay that amount to a Library Fund is already paying that amount — to the City. Calling it a "separate levy" probably suggests to many — judging from comments on this site — that a separate levy is a new levy. It’s not. The City already submits a library levy based on the budget. Conversion to a library fund changes the payee, not the dollars.

    Also, since the .128% rate used in the memo from library staff cited is less than 1/50 of the total tax rates that make up a tax bill, you’d need a total tax bill of $18,500 to be paying a $366 library tax. Cook County records show that only about 1,150, or about 4% of Evanston housing units, and less than 6% of owned homes, pay that much or more in property taxes. So this $366 figure repeatedly used in articles on this site is pretty atypical, towards the higher end of the bell curve.

    According to recent sales data, for the 812 sales in Evanston over the last 12 months, median sale price was $285,000 and median taxes were $5,235. The library’s share of a more typical $5,235 tax bill would be $103.

    If you take the whole library levy and divide it by 20,000 owned homes and assume that residential pays about 2/3 of the property tax in Evanston, you’d get an average bill of about $125.

    Any way you cut it, the library levy is about 1/3 or les of the $366 figure repeatedly put out here. And taxpayers are already paying it.

    1. Tax numbers

      Hi Jeff,

      The $366 figure is taken directly from page 4 of the library staff memo and is the middle of five price points the memo lists — of homes valued at $200,000 … $400,000 … $600,000 … $800,000 and $1,000,000.

      There is nothing false or misleading about saying — as the stories have — that the tax would amount to $366 for the owner of a $600,000 home.

      Your example of recent sales data — which includes numerous foreclosures and other distress sales — is not relevant to the typical homeowner, who has not bought this year. The average decline in assessed values this year for single-family homes was 12 percent.

      Furthermore, as a student of taxation, you should understand that any generalized decline in property values will not mean a decline in property tax bills.

      In fact, as property values decline, the tax per dollar of value will increase at a matching rate to keep buying the same level of government services.

      The only limit on that is imposed by tax caps. And that’s something that supporters of the separate library tax levy perhaps should be concerned about. If the assessed value of property in Evanston were to decline substantially, the library board might easily find itself "maxed out" in its taxing ability.

      The city, by contrast, as a home rule community, faces no such cap on its taxing authority.

      — Bill

  3. Uncertain, not opaque

    Choice of words can reveal hidden sympathies and biases. I, too, was also at this library forum and I would not describe the Library Board as opaque in their plans. There are many questions that need to be answered before the Board could even begin to plan a budget for NEXT year.

    Budgeting will be set up in new ways. A base case for setting up a new accounting system is a zero net effect on taxpayers’ bills, regardless of the number of new revenue, expenditure and capital account line items.

    To me, the word opaque implies hidden, as if the Library Board was trying to hide their "true" intentions.  I’m sure their motivation is a better library system for Evanston. Why else would they volunteer to serve?

    But scheduling two public forums does not strike me as wanting to hide anything. I was surprised that less than 50 people showed up. I’m sure the Library Board is well aware of the emotions and concerns of the City Council and of taxpayers. Together, the citizens of Evanston will work out a consensus (well, a democratic majority) about the appropriate level of library services offered in our town.

    I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, unless proven wrong.

    1. Word choice

      Hi John,

      My word choice intentionally contrasted the board’s claimed desire to be "transparent" about budgeting with the complete lack of clarity in its presentation about how big a tax it plans to impose upon us.

      The board could easily say:

      1. We will spend no more than the city spent last year and cut whatever it takes to maintain that spending level, or
      2. We will spend no more than x% more than what was spent last year because we think you taxpayers are willing to accept that much of an increase in spending to beef up library programs, or
      3. We will spend whatever it takes to establish x, y and z programs that we think are essential, or
      4. We have a long range plan to raise spending at 10% per year plus the rate of inflation, because we think you taxpayers want to come as close as possible to matching the library services of the towns whose libraries we like to compare ourselves to — Skokie and Wilmette.

      But they chose to do nothing of the sort. They were totally fuzzy about what their actual budget targets and program goals are. That may be because they haven’t agreed among themselves, or because they’re trying to see how much blowback they get from residents before they pick a number.

      Now — targets might change over the course of the process of adopting a budget. Unexpected expenses might crop up. But if you don’t start out with clear, agreed-upon goals, your budgeting process will be a mess.

      And they and their supporters claim there has been no clarity about the city’s current budget for the library!

      In reality that is presented with great  transparency starting on this page of the city’s budget book.

      The Library Board has decided it can no longer live with the amount of money the City Council appropriates for library services — but its members are unwilling to tell us what they plan to spend.

      Here’s a dictionary definition of opaque: "hard to understand; not clear or lucid; obscure."

      Sure sounds to me like where we are with the Library Board’s budget goals at this point.

      — Bill

      1. The Board said Themselves that they would figure out the numbers

        Bill is right on–actually I would say he is being quite charitible since the 2 1/2 pages of general description that the board-appointed Task Force passed off as a "report" indicates that the Board would analyze how much of the costs currently subsidized by the city’s general fund would have to be raised by the new taxing authority before they decided what to do. 

        It is really funny that the defenders of the unaccountable library board on this thread–telling us to "trust" an unelected body–are all folks who recently lost elections themselves (add to them the president of the library board who actually lost an aldermanic election when his name was the only one on the ballot!).

        If the board knew what they were doing or had any respect for the public they would have actually made cost estimates for the variety of financing mechanisms they analyzed and they would have shared their findings with the public. 

        They never did this.  So it suggests one of two things: 1) they have an understanding of the costs involved, but they recognize that they are too high to be politically palatable when we are in the middle of the Great Recession; or, 2)  they actually did not conduct any fiscal analysis showing they have a careless disregard for fiscal responsibility and probably shouldn’t be in a position to make multi-million dollar budget decisions.

        Remember–the Library Board could have made the decision to establish a Library District and they didn’t.  The District comes with the same financing powers–but has a twist: its Board is directly elected and accountable to the public.

        Of course, for many of these folks, the spectre of elections is a harbinger for the failure of their unpopular ideas. 

    2. Less Than 50


      Despite serious interest, some of us were unable to attend the forum due to other commitments on Saturday – or perhaps I’m the only interested Evanstonian who had prior plans out-of-town. (I should try to avoid speaking for anyone other than myself.)  I also can’t attend the Wednesday forum due to similar commitments – such is life.

      You’re "sure the Library Board is well aware of the emotions and concerns of the City Council and of taxpayers." What did they say in the forum that convinced you of that, especially grounded in the fact that the [supermajority of the] Board acted with little consideration for the emotions and concerns of the City Council and taxpayers with their decisive action to create the Library Fund?


      1. 50 good people? Or 45, 40, 20, or 10 good people?


        I’m not faulting any one person with an interest in the libraries or paying property tax for not attending the forum. I’m just surprised that with the level of interest  and strong opinions I’ve heard, more people did not show up.

        I saw a large part of the Board’s presentation last winter at a Central Street Neighbors Association meeting. I’m aware, then, that the Library Board has been researching the issues. Hearing their introductions, I was impressed with their qualifications to be trustees. In my opinion, the Board came to a reasoned and unhurried decision about funding.

        I’ll let the Trustees speak for themselves, but I’m sure they are getting tired of being jerked around by the City’s budget process. They are tasked by State statute to be responsible for the management of library services. But the City is currently responsible for setting their budget, their capital plans, and their staffing. They are told to plan to close the branch libraries, but, whoops, wait a few months and see if some outside group can raise some funds. Don’t know about next year, though.

        In my opinion, the board is justified in reclaiming control over their budgeting process, in accordance with state law. If the citizens of Evanston don’t like what that might lead to, then they should speak to their state representatives. Everyone, from the Mayor making her appointments, to the Council approving them, to the Board empowered by the State, are doing their jobs to deliver library services to Evanston.

         The Library Board has not voted to raise our taxes. Only when someone raised increased taxes as a possibility did people start to pay attention. The attention is good- hopefully, the second forum will be better attended than the first.

  4. Library Board not shooting straight with the taxpayers

    So the Library Board said it has made no decision to fund the branch libraries.

    Ask yourself – if the City Council had not voted to close the branch libraries then what motivated the Library Board to declare itself a new taxing body and create a library tax? Why now?

    Consider that the well-organized Evanston Public Library Friends (EPLF) wholly supported the Library Board’s move all the while collecting donations to keep the branch libraries open. And now it appears EPFL does not have a cohesive plan on how the donated money will be spent now that there’s a new library tax.

    It just so happens that former City Council member Eb Moran and former state congressional candidate Jeff Smith sit on the EPLF board. Both Smith and Moran are attorneys and probably worked their connections with the City Council and mayor to get their blessing to create a new library tax. The Council remains mute on this subject.

    The truth is the unelected members of the Library Board and Evanston elites decided that library budget cuts are not acceptable so they decided to enact a new tax in order to negate the Council’s official vote to close the branch libraries. The Library Board did all of this without holding a public hearing.

    John Zbesko, a former councilman candidate, says he was surprised less than 50 people showed up at  a 10 a.m. Saturday forum and that the Library Board is not hiding anything. Well Mr. Zbesko, if the Library Board is not hiding anything then why did it not hold at least one public hearing before voting itself a taxing body and levying a new library tax?

    It seems in these hard economic times, special interest groups refuse to share in the sacrifice of budget cuts.

    1. All meetings of public boards are open to the public…

      but usually nobody seems to pay attention. Then, when something controversial comes up, accusations of cover-up, hidden agendas and worse are flung.

      I believe the Library Board IS being responsive to the community by holding forums and also meeting with the Council. No new taxes, no new cuts, and no new budgets for next year have been decided.

      1. Zbesko’s definition of responsiveness!

        Wow ! The spin is incredible.

        Lets review the facts: As part of the budgeting process last year, the library was unsatisfied with having to cut back like nearly every other department.  Library administration and the board asked the council for a "stay of execution" for the branches.

        In January the council gave the library until the end of the year to raise private funds to keep the library branches open.

        In February, the library board put together it’s task force to explore "sustainable funding."  That task force was supposed to finish its report–I belive in April, but it kept on getting put off until–finally–in June it was presented to the board and passed.

        The report was NOT posted on the library’s website for people to read.

        The Library Board presented the financing report to the Council at the end of June.  At that presentation the Board said nothing about pushing ahead with any of the options presented in the report.  They played their same opaque game of saying nothing.

        For the July 21 board meeting, an agenda was never posted on their website, so no one in advance would know what they were going to discuss unless they saw it posted at the actual library.

        At that July 21 meeting, the board decided to hastily call a "special meeting" outside their normal schedule (which was determined months in advance). 

        The special meeting was where they voted to invoke the library fund model.

        The facts:  the library board wasn’t straight with the Council in June.  In July, it diverged from its normal schedule to push through a financing plan that would result in a drastic way that the library was funded.

        If this is Zbesko’s notion of "responsiveness," we can understand why the 7th ward voters didn’t trust him to be their elected representative.

        1. Personal attacks from anonymous cowards

          So, this is what the discussion has deteriorated to. Thread over.

          1. Thank you to John Zbesko and other identified contributors


            I admire your courage in identifying yourself online. I find the only online submissions worth reading and responding to are those submitted by people that use their real and full names. I have learned a great deal from the thoughtful and well-written submissions by the few named contributors to this site, including Jeff Smith and Michele Hayes.

            Submitting thoroughly researched content can take a great deal of  personal time, and is a valuable contribution to the community. Whether or not one agrees with the library board or others that serve as community volunteers, one should respect the massive amounts of time most contribute, and the fact that they serve openly, by face and name.

          2. Submitting thoroughly

            Submitting thoroughly researched content can take a great deal of  personal time, and is a valuable contribution to the community.

            There is absolutely no relationship between how well researched content is, and whether the author is identified or not.  We have seen a lot of unsubstantiated nonsense posted on Evanston Now and other sties by real name users.  We see real-named people with stuffed pigs spout crazy conspiracy theories at Council meetings.    We have also seen in-depth research by anonymous enquiring minds.

            These people who serve on the library board have their own motives for serving.  We should not assume that they are saints.   Maybe they use the library often, maybe they are (like Dr. Stewart  ) part of the library industry.

            They have their interests and agenda, and I have mine.  I don’t want to pay to keep up the branch libraries.  They are a waste of money, and they siphon resources away from the main library.

          3. Stay on topic, please

            To all posters …

            Evanston Now permits anonymous comments.

            As publisher I am unwilling to have discussions of important community issues, like the library, hijacked into a debate about whether people should be allowed to post anonymously.

            That issue has been discussed to death in the past, and it is now closed in this forum.

            Any further comments posted to this story on the off-topic subject of anonymity will be removed.

            If you wish to discuss the subject of anonymity with me directly, send me a message using the contact form.


            — Bill

          4. Deteriorated to?

            John, You may have taken offence at the jibe about the election, but the author brings forth some interesting points.

            Is there something inaccurate about her/his portrayal of board decision making?

            That seems to be how I remembered it–that’s what makes their tactics ethically problematic

            Franklin Thomlinson

  5. Library Tax Levy

    The article states that a library memo mentions the amount of a tax levy of $366 for a $600,000 home. That is more than what my family spends in Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc…in NEW books and music! We are huge users of the public library, but the costs of maintaining it don’t make economic sense.

    To make matters worse, we live closer to the Skokie public library than to the main Evanston library, that happens to have more music, movies and parking (free, by the way). Evanston Public Library cards can be activated there with two forms of ID. Their website is far superior too!

    Why would Evanston residents need to pay that amount for something that doesn’t make economic sense and that is becoming increasingly obsolete? Why don’t we close it and use the money (apparently a lot) to be distributed for book vouchers among Evanston’s less fortunate families?

  6. Why no referendum?

    Again, I enquire:  

    Why aren’t the library lovers calling for a referendum?

    That is what the activists got for the Civic Center – a silly feel-good referendum about saving the Civic Center.

    That is what they wanted for the Tower.

    Now we need a referendum.

    Let’s put two questions on the ballot.

    A pointless feel-good question for the library-lovers:

    Question 1:    Do you like  branch libraries, kittens, ice cream, and babies?

    A reality-based question for the rest of us:

    Question 2:   Should the Library Board be allowed to impose a new  tax for the support of libraries in Evanston?

     If the branch supporters can get Question 2 to pass, then they should be allowed to keep their libraries.


  7. Service not Money should be the standard

      There have been a lot of comparisons of city’s spending on libraries.  Amount spent should not be the standard—the standard should be service.

      The Board should  first define what they want/can provide for the city and then explain what dollars are needed to meet that standard.  If citizens agree with the service proposal, then they can decide if they want to fund that level.

      Using dollar comparisons is like firms saying their "investment performance was in line with other companies" or CEOs using other CEOs pay to justify what they should be paid—thus always pushing salaries higher since "EVERY [CEO] is above average."

      The Board should define what they want for EPL: improve the arts and sciences, provide meeting space [are they gettting all the revenue they can from renting out rooms?],.more teen/child facilities, more computers, more journals [or pare down what they are getting], more reference/databases, etc.. Do they think they can economically operate both the Main and Branches or need funds diverted from other city budget categories.

    Then we will know where we stand and can make rational decisions.

  8. How to interpret 50 meeting attendees

    Clearly 50 people attending a meeting like this is not a huge crowd, but I don’t think it’s bad.  I am sure many people have strong feelings (on both sides of the issue) but did not attend, as is the case for most events of this type. 

    All of this debate has me wondering about the extent of community use of library facilities.  Here’s a question for fellow readers; maybe someone has an answer:

    In a typical year, what percent of Evanston residents use a public library facility at least once? 

    I think this is a crucial issue, and one I have not heard mentioned in past debate (although I certainly might have missed it).  I know that in a typical year there are hundreds of thousands of books checked out, etc., but by how many people?

    1. EPL Parking

      Perhaps one of the arguments used by branch supporters [I’ve not heard it] is parking is easier and cheaper around the branches—at least the south branch though both would seem bad to me.

      One thing Wilmette library has is a free parking lot and as I recall pretty good parking on the streets..  That is probably a big draw to north side Evanston residents.  It has been a long time  since I was at the Skokie but I seem to remember it was free.

      I never drive to EPL so maybe the garage [lots to the east?] there is free with validated parking.  Something the library might want to consider but I doubt the Council would approve.

      1. Parking is not a problem

        FYI:  the Main Branch of the Library is in Downtown Evanston.  There is a surplus of parking in Downtown Evanston.  All of the downtown public garages–including the one 20 meters away from the Main Library–offer free parking for an hour.  The downtown garages are never full.

        In addition, the Main Library is served by 6 bus lines and two train lines, and scads of bike racks.

        The South Branch is served by one bus route, and two train lines, but has no bike racks.  They have no parking lot and a couple of metered spots on Chicago.

        The North Branch is only served by 1 1/2 bus routes, a single commuter rail station, and also has no bike racks.  They also only have metered parking.

        The Branches are much less accessible and parking is much more of a pain than downtown.

        1. Library Parking

          An person wrote "In addition, the Main Library is served by 6 bus lines and two train lines, and scads of bike racks."

          In fact the bike racks are almost always full including people parking on the left and right side of the racks so it can be very hard to even get to bike locks or get the bike in/out.  On the church side they probably have no more room but perhaps more in the parking lot  ?


          Yes you can pay to park but as many know fee parking downtown has been a big issue with people and caused a number of diners and theater goers to say they won’t come to Evanston.  Most people go to the library for several hours and don’t want to pay [who does] and so use the branches [as stated parking is not good there either], Wilmette and Skokie as an excuse. 

          I realize some form of free parking for EPL Main would be a problem since it is located in the center of the business area  unlike Wilmette.

      2. Library parking

        The main branch of the Evanston library has a metered lot in the basement. As you drive north past the library, it looks like just an enetrance to an alley, but it’s actually a ramp down under the building. Nothing could be more convenient, especially in bad weather. Once in a blue moon, it’s full and you have to park in the surface lot to the east. No, there is no validation.

        The south branch is on a corner with very little in the way of parking. The adjacent side streets are usually all parked up like a city neighborhood.Anyone who tries to tell you that parking here is cheaper or easier than at the main branch, must not have tried to visit the south branch. It’s only convenient to those within walking distance.

        At least the north branch has a surface lot across Central, not far away. It’s also surrounded by a busy shopping street. The south branch is on the far fringes of the Main & Chicago activity.

        The Skokie library has a recently expanded free lot, that still manages to be full when there are performances in the theater. But there are other lots nearby, including across Oakton. I can’t comment on Wilmette as I haven’t been there for a while.

    2. Library checkouts

      This year’s city budget book says there were one million checkouts of an item from the library last year.

      During a 9.5 month period last year 6,890 people borrowed material from either only the main library or only one of the branches. Another six percent borrowed from both a branch and the main library. So, roughly 7,300 people borrowed something during that time.

      Presumably for a full year the total number of borrowers would be a bit higher — so figure that for the year it’s somewhere around 7,500 people — or roughly 10 percent of the city’s population.

      That suggests that, on average, those who did check something out checked out about 133 items each over the course of the year.

      You can find more detail about the usage numbers in a staff memo that was part of the City Council’s budget debate.

      The 2009-10 city budget book quotes a "National Citizen Survey" done in 2007 in which 79 percent of respondents (presumably just the Evanston residents) said they’d had at least one contact with the library or its services over the past year.

      It provides no further detail about the nature or frequency of those contacts. But it does note that 87 percent of the survey respondents rated the library’s services as either "excellent" or "good."

      I haven’t seen any information on how the survey was conducted.

      — Bill

      1. Library Checkouts

        133 seems high since for a family of two adults that would be over 2 books a week.  For even popular books on the economy, enviornment, etc. a book a week per person seems high—esp. given checkout period given and late returns—-even a two hour DVD gets a week and seems to have a lot of late returns. I suspect the load of childrens books and maybe light fiction reading skew the results.

        10% of the population using the library seems low and would indicate a problem in a city like Evanston.

        Can the ETHS librarian or someone in the know comment on whether ETHS library has all the books students should need for classes, level of collection [i.e. could do basic college level research].

        It would be interesting to know how many residents without borrowing privledges use the NU libraries for other than computers for non-academic use.  It would also be interesting to know how many EPL patrons just come for computer use un-related to any level of research.

        1. Borrowing count

          133 seemed high to me, too. But you need to remember that it includes DVDs and children’s books which people can consume in much less time than it would take to finish a full-length book written for adults.

          — Bill

        2. High use patrons

          As someone else mentioned, families with small children may check outstacks of thin picture books as well as half a dozen kiddie videos each week.

          I have gone through periods of checking out 10 or so educatonal videos weekly for my reluctant readers. On top of that, I can easily read through 5 or so mysteries per week, plus one or two other novels. Then maybe some non-fiction once in a while about some issue that may have arisen.

          There are also a numbere of business uses of the library. Having worked in the publishing industry, I know that people doing picture research may check out scores of books at a time, bringing them back to the office to search for appropriate illustration material. I’m sure that people researching other things also check out many books at a time.

          So these heavy users more than offset the prototypical couple who borrow one or two items per week.

      2. 133 items per year

        This year’s city budget book says there were one million checkouts of an item from the library last year.

        During a 9.5 month period last year 6,890 people borrowed material from either only the main library or only one of the branches. Another six percent borrowed from both a branch and the main library. So, roughly 7,300 people borrowed something during that time.

        That suggests that, on average, those who did check something out checked out about 133 items each over the course of the year.


         Is the numerator  of 1 million the total number of checkouts (including non-Evanston residents) ?  And the denominator of 7300  – does that include the residents of other cities, or just Evanston?


        1. Out-of-towners using Evanston Library

          Good questions.

          A library report says 1,343 non-Evanstonians checked something out from the Evanston library in FY 2009-10. Of those folks, 870 were from Chicago, 101 from Wilmette, 80 from Skokie, and the rest from a total of 157 other towns. (That is in addition to the number of Evanston residents mentioned above.)

          The total checkout number is for all users not just Evanston residents. So, with that adjustment, the average number of items borrowed per borrower would decrease to about 115.

          FWIW, another chart in the library report says that 409 Evanston residents only borrow books from the Wilmette library and another 135 borrow from both Wilmette and an Evanston library. As you’d expect, most, but not all, of those folks live in north Evanston.

          — Bill


          1. Chicago users of EPL

            That is something I’d not thought of but makes sense.

            The closest Chicago library is 6900 N. Clark and when I went there once while waiting to meet someone, it did not even come close to the EPL south branch which is not saying much.  One thing though, I’ve been approached several time by people saying they are "Chicago" residents but don’t have IDs EPL accepts to check out books and will pay me $10 to check out a book for them—clearly they expect to sell it for more and leave me in trouble with EPL !

            When CPL was located in the warehouse on Michigan Ave. I went there several times  and even found it poor and anything I’d want to check out [science, finance, economics] could not be checked out—types of books EPL would lend.  When the Harold Washington Library opened I went there and assumed things had changed—but they had not and so I’d only went there a couple more times but not expecting to be able to borrow anything of use.

      3. Family Checkouts

        Bill – I suspect the number of actual users is substantially higher.  My wife does all the checking out for our family of five (all of whom were counted in the most recent census).  Having stood in the check out line with my wife a couple of times, I can tell you there were always a number of moms and dads with kids in tow checking out books for their families.

        We also fall into the camp of heavy users and probably check out about 30 – 50 titles a month as the kids burn through their books, dvds and cds very quickly.  As such, the 133 check outs per user seems right when you average the usage of families and adults without kids.

        Finally, for what it’s worth, we fall into the camp of keeping the library budget under the control of the city counsel.  The library is very important to us and believe that it’s important in keeping Evanston attractive to families and protecting property values.  As such, we would vote against candidates that advocated deep library service cuts but we understand that police, fire, trash and other city services are also important.  That said, given the competing priorities, we think the only way to keep a lid on property taxes (and the resulting negative impact on property values), is to consider everything as part of a consolidated budget process by elected officials who are not advocates of one priority over another.

  9. A Library is a Good Use of Taxpayer Funds

     Having a place where children can go to hear a story and adults can read the paper or find a good book is important. Why did the city spend so much to remodel a perfectly good children’s section in the downtown location when they could have funded the branch libraries for years to come? 

    It is ironic that our society gets richer with each passing generation yet now we are thinking of closing branch libraries.

    If only the "stimulus" fund could have been spent on traditional functions of government. Yet the city’s questionnaire on how the stimulus should be spent directed every response toward the expenditure of funds on public housing, as if this were the only cause worth funding.

    So many people have been inspired by libraries. They are one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars.


    1. Nobody wants to shut down the library

      Joy, The city renovated the children’s section at the Main Library upon the recommendation of the Library Board.

      Secondly, the issue here is not closing the branches, the main library, or anything else.  No one is suggesting the library be shut down.  There is plenty of money in the city budget for high quality library services.

      The problem here is that the Library Board–unelected and unrepresentative of the city’s various neighborhoods–exploited an obscure provision of state law to give themselves unilateral taxing authority.  They did this behind the back of the city council and the public. 

      They did this without doing an estimate of what the costs will be.  This suggests that they are not competent to rationally spend taxpayer dollars and are ethically suspect.  

      You, yourself questioned why the Library Board sought to "remodel a perfectly good children’s section in the downtown location.  Believe me, the Library Board will be doing all sorts of redundant, and wasteful projects now that they have found a pot of gold in asserting unilaterally their new taxing authority!

      With regard to the stimulus package, the decisions about what the money could be spent on were determined by the Feds–not the city. The only significant money that could go to libraries was for rural libraries to boost their internet connectivity.  The EPL is already sufficient in that category, so they wouldn’t be eligible for those monies.

      1. Branches or a well supplied library

        I would suggest users [not just those who want a branch but never use it like they probably have leather bound Shakespeare on their bookshelf but have never opened] look at the new books and periodical in the EPL Main.  The selection of magazines has been significantly reduced [though except for being PC a lot more could be cut] and the new books, esp. in the sciences has been cut way back, even when recommendations are made.

        We are losing a great library due to the economy, city budget and "branch huggers."

  10. Library material donations rejected due to stupidity and lazines

    I just found out that materials donated to the library because they are not part of the collection are never added because the director of the technical services department doesn’t want to take the time to add them! I also was told that many items – especially paperbacks – have been thrown away because they looked read! The entire point of having a library is to provide the public with access to materials. Why – especially in this economy – is the library rejecting donations of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. just because no library in the area has them, so the director needs to (do her job and) figure out how to write a summary for each item and determine what code to add them under? She won’t do it because it doesn’t already exist and she would have to do some work? This is infuriating.

    1. Library questions to consider

      Why does Evanston have two large chain bookstores (Barnes & Noble and Borders) where people pay significant amounts of money to purchase their products?

      Why does a new bookstore branch open on the southwest corner of the main library’s location and sell books by the pound ?

      Why is Evanston able to support so many other small boutique bookstores?

      Seems to me that consumers (taxpayers) are saying that they want different services and products than our traditional library offers.

      Question – why doesn’t our library offer many of these services and products?

      Answer – they don’t have to because they get their revenues by taxing residents.

      Businesses must innovate and compete to survive and grow, our library can exist on its legacy and rely upon our taxes.

    2. Hmmm….

      So, the library is supposed to add anything and everything that is donated to the library?  Writing a "a summary for each item and [determining] what code to add them under" (which is called cataloging, by the way), is a little more complex than that, and especially if an item is unique and not held in other libraries, it can take a while to prepare the bibliographic record.  So adding a single unique donated book to the library collection can end up costing the library, for example if it takes an hour of a librarian’s time, $20 or more.  Is that the best use of library resources?

      Just because a book is donated doesn’t mean it is free.

      1. Librarians are suppose to catalog items as part of their JOB.

        Librarians are suppose to evaluate each item donated and determine whether it should be added to the collection based on the actual item –  NOT on whether or not there is already a preexisting bibliographic record they can use (that someone else already put together) because they are too lazy or incompetent to do the work themselves. So it could take an HOUR (or more) of a librarian’s time? Aren’t librarians suppose to be trained professionals with masters degrees, who had to take classes where they learned how to do cataloging? – So that’s part of the JOB – to catalog items. The director of the technical services department and the director of the library (and probably all the other directors at the library) make WAY MORE THAN $20/hr. If cataloging is part of the job of a librarian, then they should do it instead of whining about how it might take “a while” because it is “complex.” Seriously? Stop whining about having to do your job. Also, why is the Evanston library discarding books based on whether or not it looks read? Why are books that are discarded from a library’s collection (which the high falutin’ library technical term for is “weeding,” by the way) based on whether or not the cover has a bent corner? Do they teach that in library school too? Who is in charge – is anyone in charge? – of actually developing a high quality library collection at the Evanston library?
        "Just because a book is donated doesn’t mean it is free"?!? Just because the person in charge of cataloging doesn’t normally have to use her brain to actually CATALOG doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be doing her job.
        1. Library policy on donated books

          "Librarians are suppose to evaluate each item donated and determine whether it should be added to the collection based on the actual item."

          Exactly.  They should not be obligated to keep every donated item that they receive.

          If someone is considering giving a gift of books to the library, they can read the policy on the library’s web site about donations.  If they are not comfortable with the idea that the book might not ultimately be kept in the library’s collection, they shouldn’t donate the book in the first place.  

          From the epl website: "The library accepts gifts of materials with the understanding that the same guidelines for selection are applied to gifts as to materials acquired by purchase. The library reserves the right to evaluate and to dispose of gifts in accordance with the criteria applied to purchased materials. Gift material not added to the collection cannot be returned to the donor, but will be given consideration as book-sale items."

          I’m pretty sure that the decision to keep a donated book is not made based on "whether or not there is already a preexisting bibliographic record they can use."  Libraries usually have actual standards about what they will or will not acquire for their collections.  As epl’s policy states, they only keep gifts that fit the guidelines of what they would acquire through purchase.

          Would the library choose to buy a paperback book that is not in great condition, go through the time and effort to catalog and physically process the book (which, despite what you say, does require the use of the librarian’s brain, and can, yes, cost $20 or more if it is a unique item not held elsewhere, or if the available bibliographic record is of poor quality, or if authority work has not been done by another library on the author, series, or subject), only to have the book hold up for only a handful of circulations? [Note also that one of the Guidelines for Selection on the Library Policies pages is "E. Suitability of the physical format for library use."]

          I guess that I would prefer that my public library use its limited resources in a different way.

        2. Hmmmm…. pt. 2

          I’m not sure how you came to think that I was suggesting that the library should pick and choose which gift books to accept based on whether there was an available bibliographic record for an item.  I was simply pointing out that it does take library resources–effort, time, and money–to incorporate donated items into the library collection.  Sometimes it is $20, sometimes it is less.

          1. Librarians are supposed to catalog items as part of their job.

            Unfortunately, the directors at the Evanston library DO select donated books, CDs, DVDs, and tapes based on whether or not there is an existing bibliographic record because the directors are too lazy or incompetent to make one themselves.

            Of course it takes effort, time, and money (what doesn’t?) to catalog and to weed (beyond discarding books that look like they’ve been read) – all of which is part of DOING YOUR JOB. That is what you are being paid to do. To fail to include items in your collection because you don’t feel like doing your job is an incredible disservice to the public.

            It is the responsibility of a library to create a good collection of a wide variety of items to the public. Stop making excuses and complaining about how this takes effort, time, and money and how it is soo "complex." Please. Do your job and (per your website) provide "open access" to resources.

  11. EPL Main Magazines

    Anyone who has seen the EPL Main magazine collection [rather than just talking about it] noticed months ago a number of magazines had been pulled.  Saturday it seemed even smaller and the librarian said they pulled another 30 ! 

    Thanks Branch lovers.  Your goal of a ‘private library’ near you may serve you but not the library resources.

    1. Library Budget—Imagine a library without books !

      Evanston Roundtable 10/13/10 "Library Board Approves its Budget"

      "If the amount and allocations are approved by City Council, then both library branches would be funded for five days a week of operation through Dec. 31, 2011, but MONEY ALLOCATED TO PURCHASE BOOKS AND PERIODICALS FOR THE LIBRARY’S COLLECTIONS WOULD BE DECREASED BY ABOUT 20 PERCENT."
      Thats a novel idea, reduce the books and periodical of a library so you can keep the branches open—I assume with a smaller collection for them also.  Maybe they want Main and branches to just be study halls and baby sitting !  Yes the Main has become a study hall for many.  The quiet reading room is almost always occupied [almost never more than 75% full] with people over 25 [my guess].   Half are on laptop computers and it seems most bring their own materials—except for those reading the magazines/newspapers. I don’t find the west half of the Reference floor conducive to ‘study’ because of the noise and poor lighting—given the few people I see studying I’m not alone—though there are a number of people on their laptops.  The east half is better but still noisy. The far west side of the second floor is somewhat conducive to reading but I’d not guess study. We seem to have forgot what libraries are for.  A 20% reduction would mean a lot less need for me to go to the Main—I never even consider the Branches.  Already the new books for the last three plus months are nothing I care for—–if not for interlibrary loan I would not have read any new books from the library—yes I do consult some older books for an occasional question.

      "Audrey Niffenegger said she was speaking in a "two-fold role: As a writer, I hope you will not kill the branches and deprive me of future readers. … Think of your library as part of the schools. If kids can’t go to the library, they are going to sit home and suck up the Internet." "

      So is this now a new story ? I thought they wanted the branches so kids would have now computer access.  Now we hear they have it at home and there would apparently ‘suck up" the internet—with I assume games because education would not be "sucking up."  Will they do the same at branches ? 

      Must we preserve the branches so Audrey will have future readers ?  Is the purpose of the branches to boost her income or fame ?


  12. Librarians as Tutors ?

    Evanston RoundTable 10/13/10 Editorial contains the following:

    "Supporters of the branch libraries have pointed to the fact that they provide access to books and to computers, things that many households lack. They also afford students a quiet, safe place to study and ready help for information about how to tackle many a homework problem."

    Has anyone told the librarians that now they are expected to be tutors ?  Maybe they tutor in the EPL-Main Loft, but I’ve never seen a librarian providing info. about tackling a homework problem other than telling them where books are—supposedly the students would know that already [based on the collections I doubt the branches have anything beyond encyclopedias for that].

    It is getting to sound like a politician. Every time it is shown the Friends arguments "have no clothes" they invent a new benefit—I dare say this time not even knowing what the librarians do or have time for.  The North branches is larger than the south branch so maybe there is room for someone to study, but anyone who has been to either, even during the daytime, would soon realize the noise is not conducive to any  studying.

    1. Libraries as an extension of school?

       I challenge anyone to go to either branch after school and count the number of school kids there. Then count the number actually using the books, computers or librarians’ services. If we need community centers for kids after school, we should create them. Or keep the schools open longer so the kids could use the school libraries for studying (and get genuine homework help). But to say that is what the branches are for is just bogus.

  13. Periodicals and Book Reduction

       Have you noticed the reduction of new books and how many periodicals have been discontinued [50% reduction] ?

       It is a little harder to notice the fewer new books unless they are in the area you are interested in, but the periodicals is very clear.

       In the last year a few I’ve noticed that they have dropped established periodicals such as ‘Physics Today’, ‘Der Spiegel’, ‘Paris Match’ and many more.  Budgets, yes; branch lovers, yes; but what they have kept shows what is probably the dumbing down of the public.  Can you imagine the outcry if they cut "Cosmo", ‘Glamor’, ‘Men’s Health", ‘People’ [English and Spanish], all the PC magazines [ethnic, gender], all the fashion and entertainment magazines.

      Sadly the budgets and ‘friends’ are hurting the library funding but what the public seems to want [or Board thinks so] is more discouraging.



    1. periodicals

      I would get rid of People and Glamor…but I also don’t see the need for Paris Match (isn’t that just People magazine en français?   It looks like the current issue has Prince William’s girlfriend on it.)

      A paper subscription to Der Spiegel is also not necessary.  With the internet, many foreign news sources are available online.

      I would like more internet terminals…perhaps the library’s wi-fi could broadcast throughout Evanston.  Also, I like these e-books.  The library’s collection is a nice start, but they should really build up this up.

      There should be fewer paper books and magazines..  Use the library space for access to electronic media and meetings,  discussions, and films….and let’s have an aggressive security policy to stop the place from becoming a homeless shelter.

      1. EPL ebook collection

        I like to download the library’s  ebooks for use on my iphone and Sony reader.  Evanston’s collection of epub and audiobooks is improving (they just dumped another 300 titles in the list last week), but when I compare the available selections to those of other systems ( Hennepin County (Minneapolis) and  Cuyahoga County (Cleveland)   have much larger lists of titles ), ours looks pretty small.  Chicago’s is even worse.   [To be fair, our list is much larger than those of LIttle Rock, AR  and Ann Arbor, MI ]

        Enquiring minds want more ebooks, not branch libraries and not paper books.  Ebooks are also easier for people who have trouble getting to the library, they don’t get damaged or lost or stolen, and they don’t take up space. Ereaders could be rented or provided at low cost, and assistance could be provided for people who need help downloading.

        The library (singular) would then not be a giant depository of paper books, but a place where people could read or view ebooks or videos, or hold meetings, or listen to authors or speakers,  and get help in research from skilled librarians.

    2. Level of EPL books

      One reason Friends gave for branches was that K-12 students need it for student and I assume research.

      However it seems evey time I recommend a book for purchase, I'm told it is more of an 'academic book' even when it is at the level of a high school student and/or would be of value in interesting people in the areas and DEFINITELY filling in a large gap that has developed in the books available for even high school or first two year college student and even adults trying to expand their knowledge or research at a basic level.  I know employees are working within the strictures they are given, but EPL is in serious need too keep up.  I assume the staff assumes NU fills the gap, but I rarely see even high school students at NU.

      Yes EPL's Web access can provide some info. but the time limits are not designed for research and questions don't always come all at once during the day.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *