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Manager: Slash main to keep branch libraries

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, asked by aldermen to come up with a plan to keep branch libraries open, now is suggesting shutting Evanston’s main downtown library on Fridays and making other reductions to its hours to keep the branches open.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, asked by aldermen to come up with a plan to keep branch libraries open, now is suggesting shutting Evanston’s main downtown library on Fridays and making other reductions to its hours to keep the branches open.

Under the plan, the main library would close at 8 instead of 9 p.m. weekdays. In addition its opening would be delayed from 9 to 10 a.m., except on Sunday when it would open at noon, as it does now.

But those changes, plus reducing branch operations from five days a week to four, Bobkiewicz says, only makes up $242,000 of the current $425,000 cost of running the branch libraries.

So the manager is also proposing cutting two additional positions from the Community Development Department to close $150,000 of the gap.

He’s also counting on private fundraising to come up with $25,000 for the libraries and proposes transfers to the library fund of $10,000 from the parking fund, related to the library parking lot, and $25,000 from the Washington National TIF district, which adjoins the library.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Civic Center.

The aldermen are wrestling with how to close a projected $9.5 million gap in the budget that has to be adopted by the end of February.

They asked Bobkiewicz to come up with an alternative to closing the branches after hundreds of people who live near the North Branch library on Central Street and the South Branch on Chicago Avenue protested the plans for their closing.

Library records show that three-quarters of Evanstonians who checked out materials from the library system in the past year used only the main library. Ten percent used only the North Branch and seven percent used only the South Branch. The rest mostly used one of the branches plus the main library.

Library Director Mary Johns says the new plan would reduce the system-wide hours of operation — the hours in the week when any library is open — by 14 percent — from 72 to 62 hours. The proposed schedule would keep the branches open on Fridays when the main library would be closed.

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