The Myths & Truths about Evanston’s Libraries

August 8th, 2010

Myth: The libraries are a luxury and a duplication of service.

Truth: Libraries are an essential element in a society that values education.
To eliminate the neighborhood libraries only makes it more difficult for people to access library services. This includes mothers with young children, the elderly and those with limited funds for public transportation.

More than 90% of those surveyed who use the branch libraries, walk or ride bikes to get there. Evanston has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions with its Climate Action Plan. Walking to a neighborhood library helps in those efforts. More than 3,500 school children live within walking field trip distance of the two branch
libraries. When kids get into the habit of using the local library, it fosters education and a lifelong love of learning. It also helps reading performance and test scores.

Senior Citizens who can’t easily access the Levy Center use the libraries as their ‘community center’ and a daily destination.

Myth: People don’t need libraries because they have computers at home.

Truth: Libraries are more than buildings which house books and computers.
They are places for people to go and get help and connect with their neighbors. In fact 70% of individuals who don’t have access to a computer use internet and email through a public library. This includes online job applicants.

Myth: The Economy is bad so we should cut the libraries to help save money.

Truth: Closing the libraries will end up costing Evanston much more in the end.
The cost of keeping the libraries open is less than ½ of 1% of the entire $84,000,000 City budget.

With every dollar invested in the library returning $9 to the community*, our branch libraries are the best return on the investment in Evanston’s budget. Closing libraries in hard economic times is contrary to meeting the needs of the people. Branch use is up 37% at the neighborhood libraries since the beginning of the recession and up only 12% at Main.

It is during the hardest times that people need somewhere to go which does not cost anything. Libraries are the great equalizers. It doesn’t matter what you do or how much you make, everyone is welcome and you don’t have to spend a single penny to walk away with riches.
*Illinois Library Association

Myth: Closing the libraries will help prevent foreclosures in Evanston.

Truth: Only $22 per $5,000 tax bill goes to fund the entire library system.
The branches represent only a small portion of that $22. $22 will not make or break a foreclosure. Cutting libraries from the city’s budget will not help stop foreclosures; using the recently awarded $18.2 million dollars in stimulus money will. Libraries help strengthen neighborhoods and have also been shown to reduce incidence of crime.

Myth: The Evanston Public Library has been adequately funded since the new main library was built.

Truth: Evanston built a beautiful building, but spends less per capita on its libraries than any other city of comparable size in the state of Illinois.
The libraries have been consistently under-funded. Budget cuts have forced the library to eliminate almost one third of its collection budget. The Library has been forced to stop some day-to-day preventive maintenance on the main library, a shortsighted decision, which will result in increased expense and problems in the future.

Myth: Branch libraries are only used and supported by a small special interest group. Truth: 75,000 patrons used the branch libraries last year. Young, old, rich, poor; everyone is welcome.

Myth: The people who want the branches should pay for them.

Truth: A community offers many services which some taxpayers pay for and don’t use.
Schools, beaches, parks, recreation centers, senior centers, etc. Having those services enhances the overall quality and vitality of the community.

Myth: A Special Service Area would have paid for the libraries. I received an email saying the Council would have passed the SSA but that the library supporters would not accept them.

Truth: A Special Service Area (SSA) was never publicly discussed at any length by Council.
An SSA is antithetical in principle to a public library. With a small number of residents in proximity to the library paying for it, what an SSA would say to Evanston residents is: “You can have a library in your neighborhood if you can afford to pay for it.” Additionally an SSA was found to be unconstitutional for use by a library in a Washington state case and was unlikely to have passed this council as well.

Myth: We should sell the North Library building and save the money.

Truth: The North Branch is integral to the economics of Central Street.
The Central Street Master Plan from 2008 states that the North Branch is an “activity generator”. To sell the building and close the library in the worst real estate market since the Depression would pretty much ensure that the city would get the lowest possible price for an asset; as well as hurt the local merchants who rely on the thousands of patrons who frequent the library.

Additionally the city is collecting about $28,000 for ½ the building that is rented.

Myth: We don’t need the libraries; kids can use their school libraries.

Truth: Libraries serve everyone, from preschool students to the elderly.
The school libraries are closed in the summer and the neighborhood libraries offer an educational opportunity throughout the year when reading scores traditionally drop. 40% of the children in the summer reading program are enrolled at the branch libraries.

Many children in the community do not have internet or computer access after school except at public libraries. Started when small group of impassioned people from all over Evanston came together, branchLove, and subsequently EPL Friends, has emerged as a grassroots organization interested in the strength, vitality and sustainability of the Evanston Public Library system throughout all of Evanston including areas currently underserved by the existing system.

What happens when a city closes its libraries?
When a city begins closing its libraries, it says a lot about what it values. If the neighborhood libraries close, what will be cut from next year’s library budget? The problem is systemic. We want to help find a solution that values the libraries and enriches them for future generations. We’re passionate about saving the neighborhood libraries.

Find out what you can do to help. Make a donation here today. Become a Charter Member of EPL Friends before the end of National Library Week, April 17th and we’ll waive the $25 membership fee.

Evanston Public Library Friends
P.O. Box 8001
Evanston, Il 60202-8001
Join today!

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