OPINION: A sorry spectacle unfolded at Saturday’s Evanston City Council budget workshop.

Adults brought out their children to testify in favor of perpetuating a long-standing injustice in our community.

The children, being children, spoke only of what they knew — that they’ve had a fine time at Evanston’s North Branch public library on Central Street.

It’s the parents who deserve the censure — for thinking only of preserving an unequal benefit for their kids — and not also calling for extending the branch library system to the city’s west side.

Look at this map showing where the north and south branch and main public libraries in Evanston are located.

[gmap |id=map |center=42.04393865639606, -87.70608901977539 |zoom=13 |width=480px |height=400px |control=Small |type=Map |markers=42.06369516045284,-87.70162582397461:North Branch + 42.03552434403621,-87.6793098449707:South Branch + 42.04852781169909,-87.68016815185547:Main Library]

Then look at this map showing how white different census tracts in Evanston were at the time of the 2000 census.

2000 census

What a coincidence that the only two Evanston census tracts that have branch libraries are at least 87 percent white.

Oh, sure, when Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, pointed out the inequity, Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said he “hopes the day will come” when the city has a west branch library.

Just what day would that be, Ald. Moran?

Yes, it’s not all about race. Branch libraries are largely an artifact of the 1920s, a time before most people had cars, and portions of west Evanston were still truck farms back then.

But it’s time for this foolishness to stop. Either find an extra $250,000 in the 2007-08 budget and set up a branch library on the west side this year, or shut them all down.

There are plenty of places a new branch could go — including any of several vacant storefronts in the Dempster-Dodge shopping center.

I suspect branch libraries have mostly outlived their usefulness and that the Central Street parents should pile their kids in the SUV and head for the main library.

But if those kids are going to have a walk-to library branch, the kids on the west side should have one too. Now!

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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