Statement of Emily Guthrie, President, Evanston Public Library Friends Regarding City of Evanston’s Notice to Terminate South Branch Lease

March 29th, 2010

The Evanston Public Library Friends (EPL Friends) learned late last week that on March 9, the City of Evanston provided the lessor with notification that the lease for the South Branch Library at 949 Chicago Avenue, will be cancelled effective August 9, 2010. Notification came just days after the Evanston City Council granted the Library, and its supporters, six months – until August 31, 2010 – to explore a long-term, sustainable funding stream for neighborhood outreach, including the two existing branch libraries. According to library usage data, South Branch circulation is up 96.19%, and visits are up 42.74% over the last five years. The South Branch library has been in its current location at for 76 years, and has had a presence on Chicago Avenue since 1917.

Since EPL Friends’ inception just three weeks ago, nearly 800 Charter Family Memberships to support its mission have been applied for and activated, bringing cash on hand to support neighborhood library services to just over $60,000. Although the notification regarding the existing South Branch lease complicates EPL Friends’ short-term goals, the group is determined to continue its advocacy and fundraising, in partnership with the Library’s Board of Directors and the newly-formed Library Board Task Force on Sustainable Funding.

EPL Friends wants to assure its members and donors in southeast Evanston that it is committed to raising funds to provide library services throughout Evanston, including the Main and Chicago neighborhood. EPLF has been exploring alternative, ADA compliant space in the area, as well as researching opportunities for shared space with other organizations in concert with its public/private partnership efforts. EPLF will bring options to the Library Board for its consideration this spring, with a goal to have a plan in place by June 15, 2010.

During the summer months, demand for neighborhood library services is at its peak by families and children, nearly 40% of which participate in the Library’s summer reading game and other educational programming at the branch libraries. The City’s decision to give notice potentially closing South Branch on August 9 will have a serious, detrimental effect on the South Branch’s ability to provide library services at its current location during July and early August.

Because EPL Friends believes so strongly in a South Branch library presence, the group is willing, if necessary, to pay rent at 949 Chicago Avenue through September 30, 2010, so that any necessary relocation of the library can occur after summer programming is completed in order to ensure continued services for South Branch patrons.

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