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Library to seek new ‘vision’

Evanston's Public Library board, faced with dramatic declines in library usage, has hired a consultant to come up with what it calls a "visonary and forward thinking" plan for library services.

Evanston's Public Library board, faced with dramatic declines in library usage, has hired a consultant to come up with what it calls a "visonary and forward thinking" plan for library services.

The vacant storefront at 900 Chicago Ave. being considered as a new south branch library location.

Figures for recent months show a year-over-year decline in circulation of 4 percent at the main library, 22 percent at the north branch and 30 percent at the south branch.

The figures cover the months of July through October plus December and January, the only months in the past two years for which comparable figures were available from board meeting packets on the library website.

Library Director Mary Johns said it's apparent that the 20 percent reduction in library hours at the two branches during the past year has generally not led to patrons shifting their usage to the remaining four days a week the branches are open.

Visits to the libraries have also declined — by 7 percent at the main library, 24 percent at the north branch and 19 percent at the south branch.

About 80 percent of library visits and 86 percent of the library's circulation occurs at the main library downtown.

The board voted last month to hire consultant Miriam Pollack + Associates to coordinate the planning process without publicly disclosing what the consultant's fee would be.

Johns today said the consultant will be paid $10,000.

In a news release, the library board said the planning process "will provide an opportunity to listen and gather input from many voices in the community through focus groups, community meetings and online surveys."

The planning committee includes four library staff members, two library board members, and two "community representatives."

They are Michael Tannen, of 1010 Elmwood Ave., a board member of the Evanston Public Library Friends group that has advocated for preservation of branch libraries, and Leora Siegel, of 2128 Forestview Rd. the library director at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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