Evanston aldermen Wednesday changed their minds yet again and voted 5-4 to give branch library supporters until Aug. 31 to raise enough funds to make the branches self supporting.

The aldermen had voted 6-3 on Monday to close the branches Feb. 28, after voting Jan. 23 to direct the city manager to find other spending cuts that could pay for another year of branch library operation.

How much the library supporters would actually have to raise to keep the branches open remained unclear after the vote. Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, initially suggested that $50,000 might be sufficient, but Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, suggested that fulling covering the nearly half-million dollar operating cost of the branches would be required.

Others, including Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, suggested the separate funding solution would need to address the lack of branch libraries in some city neighborhoods, while Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested that special service area taxing districts targeting the neighborhoods served by the branches might be the only viable funding solution.

The aldermen could yet again revise their position on the branches before taking a final vote on the budget, which now is tentatively scheduled for next Monday’s council meeting.

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Aldermen vote to close branch libraries

Branch libraries cling to life

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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38 Comments

  1. Library Reprieve
    Well that did not take long. Once again the Council shows they can’t make and stick with sound decisions. Even with the Media Center they can’t make the obvious decisions. They must have got some phone calls from their “artsy” friends and feared for their re-election.
    By the time they get done they will probably have backed out of every budget cut proposed.

  2. Who are the guilty aldermen?
    This is a disappointment..I thought that we were finally going to be free of the wasteful branch libraries. I was hoping that an exciting new restaurant concept would move into the North Branch location.

    I know that the 3 aldermen who opposed cutting the wasteful branch libraries were Wynne, Grover, and Tendam.

    So who were the two aldermen who caved in and agreed to an extension?


    Reply:
    Fiske and Jean-Baptiste.
    — Bill

    1. The Library Lounge
      Hey, Madison had this restaurant concept back in the day. Very cool, with classy comfort food and lovely drinks, beautiful table linens and overflowing bookshelves as backdrop. And – get this – politicians hung out there.

  3. Library
    My recollection is that the current and previous Library Directors (Neal Ney and Mary Johns) BOTH said we should close the branches when dollars became scarce, rather than make cuts at the main library. We pay professionals, then don’t listen to them.

    Aldermen told the City Manager to balance the budget, but then put back many of the cuts. This is how we got into this mess.

    1. Latin for City Council decisions
      Main Entry: pu·sil·lan·i·mous
      Pronunciation: pyoo-suh-lan-uh-muhs
      Function: adjective
      Etymology: Late Latin pusillanimis, from Latin pusillus very small (diminutive of pusus boy) + animus spirit; perhaps akin to Latin puer child — more at puerile, animate
      Date: 1586
      : lacking courage and resolution : marked by contemptible timidity

  4. Waste of money
    It’s a waste of money to keep these branches open.

    But if they can find a source of cash to pay for it that’s NOT a tax, I’m all in favor of it. So I agree that they should get their 6 months to find alternative sources. But if they cant, the branches have to go (or the aldermen making these decisions need to go).

    1. What Branch Books are Teacher Requiring for Students ?
      Posts mention the ‘educational’ value of the branches.
      Perhaps some teachers can post what kinds of books [social science, humanities, physical/biological sciences] they are telling their students to go to the branches for—and they know the branches have ? What kinds of research or homework do the materials at the branches enable the students to do that they can’t find the materials at their school or get on inter-school library loan ? Does even the Main library have such materials that the schools do not have ? Assuming homework/research are not given before 5th grade and parents would not allow the children below that grade to walk on or around busy streets like Chicago Ave. and Central St., these students should not be an issue.

      Adults could post ‘educational’ materials in these area that the get [not just think about getting] from the branches.

  5. Citizens are not the conciliatory Council’s first priority
    Faced with unpopular decisions to balance the budget, the liberal progressive Democrat Council once again caved.

    The split on the media center cutback and branch library reprieve doesn’t surprise or bother me as much as the fact the Council just REFUSED to make the significant cuts – labor – especially in the Evanston Fire Department.

    Labor is the biggest expense. And yes, some library personnel were scheduled to get the ax but what is important to note is the city could have and should have negotiated hard line tactics, forcing ALL union employees to take unpaid time off and vacations and no overtime. That would have saved a lot of money there.

    If the Council just had the gumption to go against the union demands and influences we could still have our library branches, media center and all.

    But no. There will be no existing job layoffs in the Evanston Fire Department. The firefighters will get their overtime pay, merit pay and most likely annual pay increase.

    The Evanston fire union gave us nothing. No volunteer unpaid time off, extra holidays and so on as other neighoring fire departments did such as Naperville. That’s because Evanston aldermen are way too cozy with the unions, which have financially supported the campaigns of everyone up there on the Council, including our fair mayor, E. Tisdahl who appointed the president of the city employee unions on the budget task force.

    Here’s another point – why hasn’t Evanston sold some of its properties such as the 1817 Church Building? Remember that? The city about 8 years ago bought the building for $175,000 and then gave it to a group along with $200,000 to build a museum. Last year, the city discovered that nothing had been done so the city took the building back. Not surprisingly, the Evanston Council is looking for someone else to GIVE it to!!

    So, when you moan and groan about rising taxes and declining property values, the libraries and media center closing just ask yourself – why and who has more sway in city politics.

    The Evanston City Council is not pusilanimous. It is fiscally irresponsible and conciliatory to its constiuents – the unions.

  6. The ‘new’ council is more of the same
    Although I am absolutely in favor of letting go of the branch libraries because we just can no longer afford them, the real shame in this entire budget sham is that the fire department gets a reprieve from any budget cuts – again!

    They continue to be unrealistic in their demands – not for years – but decades. Their pensions – dictated by the State I understand – are clearly unsustainable. And their unions donate money to anyone and everyone that votes to perpetuate this craziness.

    I would love hear one of our aldermen/alderwomen say: No, you need to make cuts the same as other departments – period. But, out of fear I guess, the City Managers, one after the next and backed by the Council repeatedly let’s them off the hook.

    The fire union knows this drill of course. Their retirement deal is so out of whack with the rest of private sector that they should be embarrassed. They aren’t in the least. This is evidenced by their repeated union demands.

    Do you know that we buy their socks? They are a part of their ‘uniforms’. That is ridiculous.

    Yes, I applaud the work they do. And for their work,they get paid – just like the rest of us do. It is a job – just like many, many other jobs. Really no more – no less. They know what type of job it is when they apply.

    I request that the Council quit picking on the low hanging ‘budget fruit’ that devastates the values of this community and finally do the heavy lifting that has been needed for too long.

    We no longer afford to continue to let some departments in the City slide while others pay – and if this isn’t the year demand equality across departments (services) – when would it be?

  7. It’s called participatory democracy
    It’s called a participatory democracy and if you don’t like it, you can go live in a country where the officials aren’t elected and don’t have to take the citizens’ views into account. Like it or not, libraries are a high priority in this community, and the library supporters have made those values clear.

    By the way, the council DID axe the libraries from the budget … they’re just giving the supporters another six months to figure out how to keep them open. So go ahead and celebrate: in six months, your tax dollars will no longer be supporting these institutions that foster learning, businesses and community. I hope that finally makes you happy.

  8. Tone of comments
    After reading the above comments, a couple of things come to mind.

    1. There is a lot of passion for the subject. That’s good. That is what makes Evanston great.

    2. There is a decided lack of civility. That is destructive. That is not what makes Evanston great.

    3. Is it possible to be passionate while being civil? Don’t know in Evanston.

    Like to hear thoughts.

    1. Tone of Comments
      If you find it a lack of civility, you have to first notice the lack of the Council paying attention.
      I have to think of it as the farmer driving a cart pulled by a mule. After the mule stops and refuses to move several times when told to and goes the wrong direction despite commands. Finally the farmer gets out and hits the mule on the head with a 2×4. From then on the mule behaves. A stranger is shocked and asks why ? The farmer says “first you have to get their attention.”
      Whether it is the complaints of readers, the deficit blowing-up more or the city going bankrupt, something has to get the Council [and residents] attention. The un-civil complaints you think you see may be the more humane path.

      1. Tone of comments
        Your comments draw a comparison between our council members and citizens and a mule and farmer. Our council is and has been made up of bright, competent and thoughtful citizens, elected by bright, thoughtful and competent citizens. They and we are neither farmers or mules.

        There is nothing wrong with disagreeing over how to best use the limited resources the city has, however, reasonable, concerned and inteligent people must learn how to disagree respectfully and civilly. It does no good to cast our elected representatives or our citizens as “mules and farmers”. That I believe cast more of an impression on the writer than on the subject.

        1. Who is elected by informed voters ?
          Is Scott Lee Cohen an example of “bright, competent and thoughtful citizens, elected by bright, thoughtful and competent citizens?”
          We know voters vote on the basis of race, religion, names [apparent nationality], letters to the editor, friends recommendations, party label, etc. instead of studying the issues and research about candidate.

          1. Informed voters
            Scott Lee Cohen is both a terrific example and a poor example of of the electorate. A poor example because the electorate was not well informed prior to the election. A terrific example showing the power of the electorate. The problem was that of timing and probably the unfortunate minimalization of the importance of the Lt. Governor position.

            One can always use an extreme for the purpose of making a point, but the extremes rairly reflect the facts.

            I do appreciate your thoughtful comments, though.

  9. Branch experience — losing a series of children’s books
    My child received a “hand-me-down” book from another child who lives in another suburb. She loves the book and it suits her current reading level. We learned that it is part of a 36-book series.

    Here in Evanston, we have this great library plus two branches. Why not get the other 35 books at the library? Makes sense, right? Wrong!

    My husband goes to the Main Library and finds none of the books on the shelf. He asks the librarian whether the library has the books. He is told (no joke): that series was so popular that the books got read to death and we sent them to the South Branch.

    Huh? If the books were that popular, why aren’t the over-loved copies replaced and kept at the Main Library? But it’s off to the South Branch for my husband. Of course, it was a Monday so he had to wait until Tuesday to visit the South Branch.

    At the South Branch, he learns that they don’t have the books. Not even one.

    Huh? What kind of decisions are being made by the library staff? A popular series of books is allowed to fall apart. Then those battered books are supposedly sent to the South Branch but they can’t be found there, either.

    No business would operate this way. A popular item would be available if the customers want it. A popular item would not be sent in bad condition to a small outpost to be lost forever.

    This episode does not inspire confidence in the library leadership or the system of having branches. Are the branches free to discard popular materials without informing the Main Library? It does concern me what happened to a missing set of 36 books that the staff at the Main Library thinks is at the South Branch.

    I can’t see spending any more money on the South Branch if they can’t keep track of a popular 36-book series of children’s books.

    1. That’s a reflection of the library’s level of resources
      You forget, the Evanston library system has not exactly been cash-flush over the years. It’s not like they’ve had tons of money to replace books, hire personnel,etc.

      1. Short of resources so throw books away?
        Let’s assume that you are correct — the library is short of money and staff. How does that justify throwing books away? Wouldn’t that mean that even tattered books are kept because they can’t afford to buy a new set? Patch them up!

        If a family is short of money, the family does not throw essential items (say, for example, pots and pans or towels) into the trash simply because they are not brand new. It’s called getting by. Aren’t books essential to a library?

        If the staff can throw away extremely popular books despite the library’s limited resources, they have very poor judgment and too much time on their hands.

        Excuses, excuses for waste and bad decisions. Taxpayers are tired of them. Many of us are not rolling in money right now and we cannot afford to pay for city staff to make bad decisions with our money. Try to economize as the rest of the world has had to do.

      2. You are correct
        all the more reason to close the branch libraries and put our limited resources into making the main library the best it can be

        1. City of Evanston doesn’t value its libraries
          Just to be perfectly clear — if the branch libraries close, it’s not as if the City is suddenly going to take the money from the budget that the branches used to represent and put it towards the Main so that it’s ‘the best it can be.’ The budget for main will stay what it was for this year, less whatever cuts the City Mgr decides for next year.

          Clearly libraries are not important to the City [while the citizens feel differently] and THAT has been painfully evident as the library system on the whole has been woefully underfunded in Evanston for years. The Library’s budget represents 5.6% of the
          General Fund budget, the branches represent 1/2 of 1%, yet a disproportionate number of staff being cut, 17 of the 36 (47%) work at the Library. Eight of those employees jobs will be saved if the branches are funded.

          The suggestion to close Main for a day caused an uproar significant enough to get the branches back on the chopping block. But let’s think for a minute, once the branches are gone, where will next year’s library budget cuts necessarily come from, the new ‘best it can be’ Main library? Closing the branches doesn’t mean another nickel will go to Main — it only means that Evanston doesn’t value libraries.

          They proposed a day’s closure at Main this year, don’t think they won’t do it again next year once those pesky branch libraries are gone and the perennial budget scapegoat is out of the Council’s hair once and for all.

          1. Under No Illusions
            Ms. Keenan, I’m certainly under no illusions that the Main Library may lose a day of operations next year. Depending on how the predicted-to-be gloomy outlook ends up, this year’s proposal to shutter for one day a week might even be optimistic.

            I don’t like the possibility, but I’m not sure I know what in the budget could be cut in its stead. And frankly, neither do you. If you did, you might have proposed it this year.

            You fail to convince me that “Evanston doesn’t value libraries.” In the opening sentence of that paragraph you describe the reaction to a single day’s weekly closure at the Main Library as “an uproar significant enough to put the branches back on the chopping block.” How is that uproar not a signifier of value? I think it showed quite clearly that Evanston does value libraries: The Main Library. (And why wouldn’t they? Seventy-five percent of library traffic goes through the Main Library.) It seems like cause: close the Main Library for one day a week; and effect: uproar significant enough to put that idea to rest. What is Evanston, if not its citizens? Government for the people, by the people.

          2. We agree to disagree.
            Mr. Caldwell,

            I didn’t say the citizens of Evanston don’t value its libraries, just the opposite is true, as our thousands of petition signatures and tens of thousands of dollars pledged to
            http://www.branchLove. org will attest. What I said was, the City of Evanston doesn’t value our libraries — meaning, management — the City Mgr, et al, don’t seem to value them since they are proposed for closure every year. Closing Main was a poison pill proposed by the City in order to divide library supporters into two camps. Don’t think for one minute that it was anything but that.

            You say we haven’t suggested one single cut in its stead. Well, frankly, that’s just not true. We went through the budget with a fine toothed comb, and suggested many alternate budget cuts when asked by the aldermen to do so — including the over-planting of trees and minimizing the tree trimming cycle – which seemed to be unacceptable to one alderman in particular who waxed poetic about how trees improve our property values. But libraries? Nah.

            Would it really kill us in this economic downturn to choose the PEOPLE of Evanston over the TREES of Evanston? It’s not forever, but could be a short-term solution in order to give us time to find the long-term fix. Or, what about the $500,000 salt dome which is proposed?

            As we continue this battle it seems like I’m trapped in some bad Disney movie with the most implausible plot, wherein the City Council votes to close its libraries, the citizens rally round to save them, and ultimately the City MIGHT let the citizens have 6 months to PAY FOR THEM OURSELVES! This is seriously parallel universe stuff. You’d think we were trying to keep two strip joints open for all the support we’ve gotten in finding solutions by the City.

            I agree with you that Evanston is its citizens, and the citizens of Evanston want the branch libraries — despite what the Evanston Now ‘Poll’ indicates. (Vote early and often). Closing the branches is part of a larger systemic problem wherein the libraries continue to be under-funded and unsupported philosophically and financially by the City [not by the people]. We may have a difference of opinion about which library we prefer over the other, but there is no argument on this point.

            $22 per $5,000 tax bill goes to the entire library system in Evanston? They are proposing more than that per household for the new garbage carts! Now that should put things into perspective about Gov’t priorities for the citizens of Evanston.

          3. The truth is closing the
            The truth is closing the branch libraries is long overdue and most of us know that. Tree trimming and planting needs to be cut back, too.

            Personally, I watch the drama (sort of an ‘after school special’ in my mind) and wonder why those fighting so hard for the libraries don’t use their energy to fight the long, long list of issues here in Evanston that have such a greater impact than keeping our old, dusty, underutilized branch libraries. Homelessness. Hunger. Healthcare. Just to name a few.

          4. Cut the Branches or Cut the EPL collections/services

              I have made a number of book recommendations over the years and the library, showing good taste in books, has always been able to purchase them.

              Several weeks ago I made a recommendation for a book that I’m pretty sure would interest a pretty wide audience.   They responded [this is in no way a criticism of them] that they wanted to hold off because of the price [to me not that great], [while the publishers reviews and quotes from readers were very positive] no [substantial papers] independent reviews yet, and "LIMITED BUDGETS."

              Supporting branches that serve only a few people will continue to affect the over-all budget of the library [in addition to general economic conditions and tight budgets everywhere] and cause the library system to have to consider more and more cuts and limits [hours, fees, fines, Loft, childrens services, librarians on staff, databases, computer terminals and on and on].

               Like everything there is a cost.  Are reduced books and periodical [look at the now empty shelves in EPL-Main] the cost we want to pay for branches for the few?

                If branch supporters somehow get the funds to carry on [will they turn collected money over to the Board or refund to donors if they don’t] for a year, will they keep the momentum for years two, three, …?   or will they come back to the library board for money ?  Will they pay back for the ‘6 month experiment’s" costs ? 

             

          5. Our library’s collections
            Overlooked during the discussion on the branches, is the unfortunate fact that the library’s collection budget for books, periodicals and a/v has been cut by over $129,000 or 22%.

          6. Library Collections
            If we continue the branches, you can bet the quality/quantity will continue to be cut. If there are only $X to spend [and you can be sure with the budget crisis and the economy it won’t increase] and we have to have duplicates in the branches as well as maintain staff and faciities, the result will be fewer new purchases.
            One step may be to eliminate novel that do not meet some criteria—admittedly hard to define but start with the romance novels, authors who grind out pot-boilers and others where the author’s pocket and fame are the obvious reason for these appearing.
            Since the branch people want to talk about raising funds, perhaps charge 50 cents for each book borrowed at Main or branches. Also bring back the 50 cent fee on reserves—odd it was eliminated in the first place. Perhaps and internet usage fee like $1 p/h.

          7. Good point on library fees

            A constructive comment about libraries! Refreshing!

            The previous poster is right, it IS odd that the 50 cents per reserve/interlibrary loan fee was eliminated. Why not bring it back or even make it 75 cents? Of course, that alone won’t solve the city’s financial problems, but every little bit helps. Why not boost the overdue book fines charged, or add to the fees for replacement library cards?

            I would think any extra income would help the libraries and the city.

          8. Don’t penalize the borrowers

            I didn’t live in Evanston when the library charged for reserve or interlibrary loan, but I’m very glad that those fees were eliminated.  Charging to reserve a book is simply a penalty to the person who is not first in line for new materials, and that defeats the goals of a public library.  I have never seen a library charge through interlibrary loans.  I make great efforts to support the library by using it whenever possible.  If these fees are added, I would stop going on principle.  Actually collecting fees from overdue books, and charging for lost cards makes sense, but let’s keep the public library public and encouraging.

    2. Did you research these titles?
      Are you very sure that this series of books is still in print and available to purchase by libraries? If they were printed only in paperback and not reprinted then after the books were “read to shreds” then a library cannot replace them. Those elementary chapter books are printed on the cheapest paper there is.

      Did the Librarian offer you interlibrary loan? Did you look up to see if they were available at other libraries in the North Suburban system? It only takes a couple of days to get them. Did you call the Skokie Library, your card works there, as well as the Wilmette Library.

      Did you ask your child’s school librarian if they had the books?

      Or, maybe, they really are unavailable. It happens with books more than you can imagine. However, if you really want these specific titles, go to freecycle and post about them. There might be a shelf of them in someone’s house who would be thrilled to give them to you.

      1. So many questions but I’ll answer them
        Yes, the series is still in print. No, no interlibrary loan was offered. No, I haven’t called other libraries to find out whether I can obtain them in some other municipality. No, I didn’t ask my child’s librarian but I am absolutely certain that I would get a BIG horse laugh on that inquiry.

        You seem to be focused on how to find these books. That’s certainly a nice thought. But I’m concerned about the incompetence that 36 missing books suggests. They are listed in the catalog but none of them are where they are supposed to be?

        Again, excuses, excuses for incompetence. Maybe I should volunteer at the library just so I can get the story on why 36 books disappeared. Oh, wait — I already have a full time job and don’t need a part-time job of finding 36 missing books for what is supposed to be a professional operation supported by tax revenue.

        And the City Council wants to keep the branch libraries open for six more months? It appears that the Main Library needs all of the resources that are being spent on the branches.

        1. EPL Inter-library loan
          You don’t need to ask EPL if they are available on inter-library loan. On the bottom of the search page you can click ” All CCS Libraries” it will tell you if the system has it. If not then you can ask and they will search further—you can also search http://www.worldcat.org/.
          Once I asked about a DVD that CCS did not have. They got it from a library in New Jersey !

  10. Better uses of 160K
    If we are going to spend money we don’t have, I would rather channel the 160K earmarked for funding the branches for 6 months into a really useful bookmobile program to serve ALL of Evanston, not just those who happen to be lucky enough to live within a couple of blocks of the branches.

  11. Sign this petition… let your voice be heard!
    Please sign this online petition to close the branch libraries.

    http://www.petitiononline.com/942DH22/petition.html

    The petition reads as follows:

    To: Evanston City Council

    Evanston is facing a $9.5 million budget deficit next year.
    To close this gap, every city department is facing cuts, including essential services.

    In this context of a severe budget crisis, the Evanston City Council initially voted to close the branch libraries.
    Days later, the City Council reconsidered and decided to fund the two branch libraries for 6 months.

    We strongly believe that given the reality of Evanston’s current budget situation, we unfortunately cannot afford to keep the branch libraries open.

    We urge the city council to close the branch libraries at the start of the budget year and eliminate any funding allocation not contractually required.

  12. New Library Branches

    Have the branch friends said where they will build the new west and south west branches so that their campaign will cover all the city’s needs-not just the north and south east ?

  13. Libraries and Book Stores—an Analogy

    I have to wonder if the branch libraries along with the Main, create a problem similar to what we saw with bookstores in Evanston.
    Evanston use to have a ‘world class’ and famous bookstore Great Expectations that had non-textbook academic works that made in famous—philosophy, history, mathematics, technical finance and economics and on and on.. We also had at least one rare book deal [also on Foster].
    I may be off on some of my chronology and timings but recall bookstore events in Evanston.
    In the late 80s NU bookstore had a very good selection of non-textbook academic works. By the early 2000 most/all of that was gone.   Barnes and Noble at first had [I’ll use Mathematics as an example] a very good selection of mathematics but rapidly shifted from having Springer Verlag level books to Dover [good classic works but dated]. Borders started out very good but fell to the same state as B&N. 
    Why ? If you want to sell a lot of books, and you don’t have an infinite amount of money, you wind up carrying a large percent of the same books your competitors carry. Pretty soon the stock of both becomes identical to a large percent.
    We also had a Crown downtown but they mostly carried a lower level of books and finally ran into financial problems as did Kroch’s and Brentano’s [they did carry a higher quality of books esp. their Loop store].
    If we insist on having branch libraries so neighbors can brag about having a library so close [much like they have leather covered Shakespeare on their bookcases—but never have read], we will [already do] see the system become ‘generic.’ Face it, they can only afford a wide variety [and quality] of books if they don’t have to have three copies of a Nora Roberts [to pick an author at random] at the two branches and the Main library—-compare the science selection at the branches [almost non-existent] and what seems to be a dramatic decrease at the Main. There is also only so much money for rent, heating/cooling, staff, etc.—something has to give and with the demand of the branch supporters will probably be the books—or at least quality. Nora Roberts is probably not going to help high school students get into college—or for that fact elementary students do well in middle school. But then the parents will have to live with that—no to think about it society will have to.
    [Granted Amazon and other online book distributors later became a major cause of the physical bookstore problem.]
    1. Library Director’s Report ?

       I hope the Council or other bodies that decide on the branches, have the library Director report publicly on the financial state of the library before approving keeping the branches open:

      Some topics would be:

          The need to reduce hours this Winter before the new funding appeared

          Future planned or possible reduction of hours—whether from running out of or anticipation of budget shortfall

           Reductions in the purchases of new books and canceling of existing and inability to add magazines

          Repeat of the slowdown in interlibrary loan that occured recently due to lack of funds provided by the State

           Necessary staff reduction

           Ebook lending

           Additional computers; timely repair of computers; new software

           New, expanded or reduced service for Loft, Childrens area

           Planned improvements or features/functions that had to be canceled even before announced—so we don’t even know what we lost

           

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