More than three-quarters of Evanston residents who used their library cards in the past year used them only at the main library downtown.

A library usage report, released by city officials late this afternoon, also shows that just under 10 percent of Evanston residents actually used a library card in the past year.

Ten percent of card users patronized only the North Branch and another 3 percent went to both the North Branch and the main library.

Seven percent of card users patronized only the South Branch and another three percent used both the South Branch and the main library.

The data does not track users at any of the branches who enter the building but don’t use their card to check out materials.

A chart from the city report showing library usage by census tract. The yellow mostly “pacman” shaped segments represent the share of cardholders in a tract using only the main library.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has proposed shutting the branch libraries as an economy measure, and the level of branch usage in different neighborhoods is likely to be a key factor in determining what areas would be subject to a special service area tax if the City Council adopts that strategy as a way to save the branches.

The full report is available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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12 Comments

  1. Fox News?
    The numbers aren’t entirely surprising, but in the interest of fair reporting, if you want the rest of the story, please email me at info@branchLove.org

    When branches are supported by the proper funding, their use goes up and stays up, as was found by the 16 branches which San Francisco runs through private/public funding. The SF Friends of the Library, too, have been among the literally hundreds of people I’ve spoken to who are offering their assistance in helping us figure out a viable solution for properly funding and supporting the libraries.

    Maybe if the branches hadn’t been so woefully neglected for so many years, their usage would be higher. I wonder what the percentage of use is for other Evanston facilities? Do more than 10% of the residents use the Levy Center, what about the beaches? Year after year nothing has been done for the branches, until this past year when North Branch finally got some cast-off shelving from Main.

    More than 1,100 people have signed petitions to keep them open, which is equal to or more than the numbers of people who even filled out the city survey about which services to cut. Only 212 people voted to close the branches and only 42 voted to close North Branch. Even then, closing the branches was TENTH on the list of preferred cuts. Out of a community of 74,000? Now those are some numbers.

    1. What is the rest of the story
      I would like to hear this “rest of the story” you allude to. Is it secret?

  2. Vote with their pocketbooks
    It’s easy to sign a petition, it’s a lot harder to get folks to open their wallets and pony up some cash. How many of those petition signers have said they’d pay higher taxes or a library-usage fee to keep the branches open? How many of them are willing cut other city services to keep the branches open? Should we cut a few summer camps? Cut the hours at the community centers? Close the beaches one day a week? Maybe the pro-branch folks will offer some alternatives

  3. Library ROI
    Patti Sherry-Crews says, “For every tax dollar spent on the library there is a return in revenue of between $4 and $6.” If that’s true I think I’ve solved our budget crisis: open 10 new branch libraries at an annual cost of $225,000 each and voilà. We just kick back and count the money stacks. No need to cut anything.

  4. Deceptive Headline
    Not sure what happened to my earlier posting on this subject. Where did it disappear to?

    Reply:
    Larry,
    Your earlier post is right where you left it.

    Now what do you mean by “deceptive headline”?

    — Bill

  5. One Fourth of Evanston is a Lot
    If one fourth of Evanstonians use a branch library, that’s almost 20,000 people.

    Seems like a lot to me.

    As for budget cuts, I’d still like to see a list of all those government workers who make more than $100,000. When this was done in California 20 years ago, it was very revealing.

    1. One fourth of one tenth is one fortieth
      “If one fourth of Evanstonians use a branch library, that’s almost 20,000 people. “

      Here is what the article said:

      “More than three-quarters of Evanston residents who used their library cards in the past year used them only at the main library downtown.

      A library usage report, released by city officials late this afternoon, also shows that just under 10 percent of Evanston residents actually used a library card in the past year.”

      So one fourth of those who used their card used them at a branch libray. (Actually, the article says less than 1/4, but never mind)

      But only 10% of Evanston residents used a card.

      What is one fourth of 10%?

      2.5%

      But wait..there’s more.

      Just because someone actually used a branch library, it doesn’t mean that they can’t live without it.

      I picked up a book at the south branch last year, even though I usually go to the Main. I didn’t want to wait for the transfer.

      (Maybe if they had all the books in one building….it would be more convenient, right? )

    2. My reading is that it’s just
      My reading is that it’s just 1/4 of the paltry ten percent who use the library.

      That is — only 2.5% of Evanstonians. Surprisingly few.

  6. Fair Journalism
    By the ‘rest of the story,’ I meant the library supporters side of the story, which someone from branchLove.org would be happy to provide. Typically in a news story, both sides of the issue are represented.

    And no, it’s not secret, which is why I provided an email address for contact. Please let me know your questions and we’d be happy to provide answers.

    But, speaking of secret, isn’t it curious that all disparaging and negative comments made have been attributed to Anonymous or Mr. WhoKnows? Anyone else think that’s weird?

    1. No, it’s not weird, it’s the Internet
      Evanston Now is a “blog”. Anyone can post comments under any name or user name they wish. If someone wants to post comments that may be taken as negative, perhaps a “username” is wiser in a town like Evanston. Many people choose username so that they will not be confused by others who might have a similar name. There are a lot of John Smith’s out there.

  7. library
    I’m confused. The library figures show that 60,000 people use the libraries every month. But only 10% of the population uses them? The population is 72,000 so 10% is 7200. So those 7200 are using the library what — once every 4 days or so?

    Something is wrong with somebody’s numbers!

    I am in the north branch once or twice a week but often don’t check out any materials. I check the papers or magazines or see what books are recommended that week. Isn’t this usage? It won’t be counted!
    Emily Guthrie

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