Two volunteers in the Evanston Public Library’s book sale program suggested Wednesday that the EPL Friends group is misleading the public.

Barbara Handler, speaking during public comments at the Library Board meeting, said a number of people she’s spoken with assume that the Friends are part of the library’s program.

“Our sales go directly into programs and collections that serve the entire community,” Handler said, while the Friends distribute money at their own discretion, beyond the control of the Library Board. This year money raised by EPL Friends has been used for “The Mighty Twig” an independent mini-library at 900 Chicago Ave.

Handler said she’d like to “respectfully suggest that the Friends adopt a name that makes a clear distinction” between their group and the Evanston Public Library

Miriam Rosenbush said the book sale at the library has raised more than $500,000 over the last five years for library programs, while the Friends “have focused too narrowly on library branch access.”

“I urge the friends group to make the main branch their focus,” Rosenbush said, adding that she agreed with comments of Thomas Mann in his recent guest essay published by Evanston Now.

For his part, Mann said the Friends fundraising “has the risk of confusing people” and he, too, urged that the Friends should change their name “so its more distinguishable from the library.”

Laurie Keenan, a leader of the EPL Friends group, called the volunteers comments “shocking,” after the Friends “had worked so hard over the past 18 months to provide better library services for all of Evanston.”

Keenan said “thousands of families all across Evanston” have joined the Friends and that the group does support the main library as well as neighborhood services.

About five audience members applauded Keenan’s remarks.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Better yet—

    Have a 'real' "Friends" group that supports EPL-Main and where the book sale money goes to EPL-Main.

    I'm shocked and disappointed that the sale money has not gone to EPL-Main.

    Also the new and hopefully "Real Friends" might want to look into how to keep out the book dealers that clear the shelves of the good books in the first few minutes of the sales.   The sale has hardley been worth even going to for about the last five(?) years.  It use to be Evanston "residents" good get some very good quality and priced books—now Ebay sellers get most of those.

  2. Call a spade a spade

    I live within walking distance of The Mighty Twig and appreciate its approach to creating a neighborhood reading/resource room that mimics some library-like services. But I agree that the name is misleading. In fact, my first time there, I accidentally returned EPL materials to them. (Sorry EPL–I hope those get back to you!) 

    At this point, I'm neither for nor against TMT's existence, but regardless of whether it is sustained, I think the group should communicate more clearly that it is independent of EPL. Arguably, true "friends" probably don't raise funds using EPL's name and establish a competing venue. However, I'm all for enterprise though and would encourage EPL Friends to choose a name that better and more accurately communicates who they are and what they provide.

  3. Complementary Organizations

    EPL Friends as a name is not misleading, unless one assumes that a 'booster club' must always and only support those things the main organization's Board does.  In this case, EPL Friends is complementing the Evanston Public Library itself by taking on its own shoulders the responsibility for neighborhood library access thus allowing the Library Board to focus on the central branch.

    Similar public-nonprofit efforts have been successful around the country.  For instance, the Central Park Conservancy (CPC) in New York City is a non-governmental nonprofit charged by the city with the management and funding of Central Park – in cooperation and coordination with the City.  This allows the City to focus its resources elsewhere. 

    It seems all involved are in a 'either/or' argument where their vision is the only vision.  Perhaps a creative, complementary 'both/and' solution can be found.

    More detail on the CPC and its relationship with the City of New York:

    "In 1998, the Conservancy and the City of New York signed a management agreement formalizing their then 18-year public-private partnership. The relationship was reaffirmed in 2006 when the agreement was renewed for an additional eight years. As the official manager of Central Park, the Conservancy is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operation of the Park. Presently, 80 percent of the Park's maintenance operations staff is employed by the Conservancy, which provides 85 percent of Central Park's $37.4 million annual budget through its fundraising and investment revenue. The City, in addition to the annual fee to the Conservancy for the services it provides, funds lighting, maintenance of the Park drives and enforcement. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation retains policy control, has discretion over all user permits and events in the Park, and provides 20 percent of the field staff.

    Since its founding, the Conservancy has overseen the investment of more than $550 million into Central Park, of which more than $390 million was raised from private sources — individuals, corporations and foundations — and more than $110 million was contributed by the City."

    (For more see http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/)

    1. Bad example

      Your choice of CPC is actually a perfect example of why EPL Friends should change their name.  They don't staff, operate, or maintain the EPL.  They have their own agenda.  They do not operate with the sole intent of helping the main branch thrive.

    2. In cooperation and coordination

      "For instance, the Central Park Conservancy (CPC) in New York City is a non-governmental nonprofit charged by the city with the management and funding of Central Park – in cooperation and coordination with the City."

      Oh yeah, that's just like the relationship between EPL and its imaginary 'Friends'.

    3. CPC vs EPLF

      If the Central Park Conservancy decided to allocate funds that were donated to support Central Park and used them to create a different park, thus effectively draining funds from the organization they purport to support, wouldn't that be a problem?

      I have no problem with The Mighty Twig, but it is not part of the Evanston Public Library. Therefore, funds given to the Evanston Public Library "Friends" have been used to fund an entity unconnected to the library. How is that supporting the library?

      They should go back to calling themselves "Branch Love" because their goal is to perpetuate (and extend?) branch services in the City. Fine. Works for me. Do it with private funds. Just be clear about your mission and don't muddy pools.

  4. EPL Friends the Peter Pettigrew of Evanston

    Oh the poor Friends: why does no one  love them?

    Having watched three soft spoken, reasonable supporters of the Main library get harangued by  wild  yelping,  I have to ask: whose Friends are these? When two of the library's book sale volunteers respectfully asked the Friends to take the misleading "Evanston Public Library" out of their name, the Friends defiantly responded that they WILL keep fundraising as Evanston Public Library Friends, whether the Evanston Public Library likes it or not. Reminds me of a divorcee who takes her husband to the cleaners while keeping his name for social purposes.

    There's been a lot of whining from EPLF , piteous cries of "why doesn't anybody LIKE us?" .Well, last night was a pretty good demonstration of why. They demean the library board and staff, while remaining accountable to no one but themselves. They take credit for services the library provides: (aren't the story times from "Mr Rick" funded by the library, not the Twig? ) They blather on about their "thousands" of members and "hundreds of thousands of dollars" donated to the library, (a claim the library's own treasurer flatly denied). Lots of us (myself included) gave money to the Friends once, over a year ago: are we all counted in those "thousands" of members?

    It's simple. Either start giving a substantial sum of money (not the cast off books you couldn't sell yourselves) to the Evanston Public Library, or else take those words out of your name. Otherwise you're acting like the library's personal Peter Pettigrew, a hanger -on who claims to be a friend but backstabs you when it counts.

    1. Attention, please!

      A man offered to sell a mule to a farmer. "Is it a good worker?" asked the farmer. The man said, "Sure, let me show you what it can do." The man then hit the mule aside the head with a board. "What did you do that for?" asked the farmer. The man replied, "He'll work for you, but first, you have to get his attention."

      Attention, City of Evanston officials, including the Library Board since you manage the Library Fund and money from EPL Book Sales and donations to the Fund for Excellence are important sources of revenue.

      Please read the Comments in Evanston Now which express citizen concern about how EPL Friends use the name of Evanston Public Library in their solicitations.

      Take a look at the following information.

      (Source: Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/phonefraud/publicsafety.shtml )
      "Consider the following precautions to ensure that your donation dollars benefit people and organizations you want to help. They're good practices whether you're contacted by an organization's employees, volunteers, or professional fund-raisers, soliciting by phone, mail or in person. …. Look closely at charities with names similar to well-known organizations. [FTC's highlighting] Some phony charities try to gain your trust by using names that sound or look like legitimate organizations. Ask the caller "Can you point me to a Website or another resource for more information about your organization?"

      When you go to the EPL Friends website, you find that, as if just using the name Evanston Public Library isn't enough, they say that they are "dedicated to strengthening Evanston Public Library’s innovation, leadership and neighborhood outreach." And "Find out how you can help strengthen Evanston’s library system." (Source: EPL Friends website). Notice how they use the possessive case on "Evanston Public Library's", while using much of the donations which they receive for their own private neighborhood home schooling program.

      How many people are confused into thinking that they are giving to EPL? How many donations which EPL Friends obtain under this system would otherwise go to EPL?

      I am not a lawyer, but I am a concerned citizen who is asking my city officials to examine these activities, because of the relationship between intent and results in such solicitations, which interfere with Evanston Public Library's own fund raising activities.

  5. With friends like these…

    Before we have to hear one more time what great supporters the Friends are of the library and it's mission, let's talk about the fact that the Friends recently filed a FOIA request to obtain the list of donors to EPL's Fund For Excellence. One can only imagine what they are going to do with these names and addresses. Sounds competitive and undermining to me. Behavior like this is unethical and in a time of budget crisis that threatens the health of the library system as a whole, unconscionable.

  6. Really?

    I don't live in Evanston but I have never heard this argument/contention in other communities (not to say that it doesn't happen).  But the name is not misleading — and in fact  "Friends of the Library" is used throughout the country and there even is a "Friends of the Library" national organization.  But ultimately the EPL Evanston group is a citizen advocacy group that has every constitutional right to organize and advocate for the library — with or without the blessing of the Library Board.   

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