After angering both the City Council and the library friends group in recent weeks, the Evanston Library Board Wednesday night decided to slow its pace of change.
Without taking a formal vote, the board decided to delay for a year — until fiscal year 2012 — implementation of the state library fund model under which it could set its own budget and levy its own taxes, overturning a vote it took in August that angered aldermen.
Next it voted to reconsider its decision of last week to limit its tax levy to the 2010-2011 level except for certain personnel costs — a decision that had outraged leaders of the Friends of the Evanston Public Library who feared it would force the closing of branch libraries.
Then it began the laborious process of identifying cuts in the budget that would satisfy the city’s budget requirements for the coming shortened 2011 fiscal year without closing either of the two branches.
Administrative Services Manager Paul Gottschalk said they could do that by trimming $35,000 from the already-reduced payroll and reducing the collections budget for such items as books, movies, and CDs, by another $60,000. The salary reductions, he said, could probably be made without additional layoffs by opening the main library at 10 a.m. each day instead of at 9 a.m.
None of the proposed budget cuts was met with any enthusiasm by the trustees, but despite considerable prodding by Gottschalk, they failed to come up with any better ideas. They all agreed, however, that closing the branch libraries was out of the question.
There was a moment of levity when Gottschalk, emphasizing cuts that had already been made, said, "We’ve stopped washing our windows," to which one trustee quipped, "that would be a good job for the Friends." To that, a voice from the audience said, "We don’t do windows."
Board President Christopher Stewart, who suggested the one-year hiatus before implementing the state library model, contended there was too little time to consider a levy for the FY2011 budget. By delaying it for a year, he said, the Board could begin planning now for the following year, including holding public hearings and workshops in an effort to get a clear picture of the steps that needed to be taken to upgrade the quality of the system.