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Library branches get another six months

Evanston’s branch libraries will remain open at least until next February after a 7-2 City Council vote Monday night.

Leaders of Evanston Public Library Friends, the group organizing fundraising efforts for the libraries, told aldermen they’ve raised $171,000 — slightly over the target set by the City Council last winter to cover six more months of operating costs.

Evanston’s branch libraries will remain open at least until next February after a 7-2 City Council vote Monday night.

Leaders of Evanston Public Library Friends, the group organizing fundraising efforts for the libraries, told aldermen they’ve raised $171,000 — slightly over the target set by the City Council last winter to cover six more months of operating costs.

The aldermen had voted 5-4 in February to close the branches at the end of August if private funds to support them weren’t raised.

The aldermen also directed City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz return to the council next month with proposals for long-term funding solutions.

Lori Keenan, vice president of EPL Friends, said the group also is trying to bring library services to the west side with a new summer reading program. She said 2,750 families and 30 local authors have come together to support the branches.

"We’re really excited," Keenan said after the decision. "We came here tonight not really knowing what to expect, and we’re walking away with six more months of library services."

Aldermen Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voted against the motion.

Burrus said proposed long-term solutions, presented by Karen Terry, president of the library board of trustees, would make raising taxes unavoidable.

The library board report discussed a establishing separate city tax levy for the library, creating targeted special service area taxes for the branches, or forming an independent city-wide library taxing district.

Terry said the separate taxes wouldn’t necessarily mean an increase in residents’ total tax burden.

Burrus also took issue with the way EPL Friends collected donations, saying many of their fund sources are supposed to benefit the EPL system as a whole.

She noted that the branch backers had obtained a list of former library system donors and solicited them.

"I just want to be very clear that that donor list which could have gone for overall library services, those funds are now being redirected just to south and north branch if that solicitation went out," Burrus said.

Burrus also pointed to a $25,000 Challenge Grant given from the library board, which Library Director Mary Johns said came from book sale funds that would normally be directed to programming and materials for all libraries.

Keenan said she remains optimistic about the branches’ futures. "We’re going to work collaboratively with the city and try to see what we might do together to extend the services even beyond the next six months," she said.

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