Beth Horner, who describes herself as a professional storyteller, told the City Council Wednesday that she’d located a Library Journal article recounting an effort by Evanston residents to raise private funds to keep branch libraries open during a city budget crisis in 1921.

Beth Horner, who describes herself as a professional storyteller, told the City Council Wednesday that she’d located a Library Journal article recounting an effort by Evanston residents to raise private funds to keep branch libraries open during a city budget crisis in 1921.

Horner, of 1911 Seward St., said the fundraising campaign then raised $20,000 — compared to $158,000 branch library backers say they’ve raised this year.

How do those numbers compare? Evanston had 37,215 people in 1920 and an estimated 77,857 people as of last year.

One dollar in 1921 bought the same amount of goods and services that $12.22 would buy today.

So, on an inflation-adjusted basis, the library supporters of 89 years ago raised $6.57 per Evanston resident, compared to $2.03 per capita this year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. the heart of Evanston, then and now

    I encourage you and anyone else to read the entire account; it’s only a few pages, but was considered noteworthy enough to make the national Library Journal at the time.

    You are correct that adjusted for inflation, it’s less.  There are a lot more charities nowawdays competing for philanthropic oxygen, but the great difference is that, as the article shows, the 1921 equivalent of the Friends had the backing of the entire elected officialdom as well as the media, the clergy, and many more. The community used the crisis as an opportunity to come together.

    By contrast, some in this community, and perhaps nowhere more frequently than on this website, have used our fiscal situation as an excuse to divide, and set Evanstonians one against another.

    The 1921 article is a fun read. Both the parallels and the contrasts are stunning.
    I was particularly impressed that some predecessor of Jim Hughes was presenting a calculus of the added costs of driving to the main branch, and that the library was showcased as a place where you could learn how to raise backyard poultry. 🙂

    It was a different world, with much progress still to be made, yet the idealism is stirring.
    You can see the tradition of love of learning and books that drives much of who we are.

    I believe this is the heart that still beats in Evanston.

     

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