About 10 months ago I posted on this site under a comment titled Library economics: fact and fiction some of my research on the issue, which could probably be updated and amplified, but the central tenet remains the same: the cost per Evanston household, and per resident, of the two neighborhood branch libraries is extremely low. I estimated it then as about $6 per resident.
To put the costs in context, there is an increase in the capital improvement fund in this year's budget that, by itself, exceeds the total cost of operation for the branches.
Also, closing the branches cannot possibly be a pure savings. Any responsible budgeting has to calculate the additional cost to the central library that will accrue as a result of increased use -- unless one assumes that all the branch users simply stop using Evanston libraries altogether. If the Main Branch is currently optimally staffed -- and some say it is understaffed -- additional staff will have to come on board downtown to deal with all the additional inquiries, book checkouts, returns, and re-shelvings currently handled by branch staff. So the "savings" from closure are a maximum figure from which there must be subtractions.
My thinking is that the City should hold off on closure until there is opportunity to put a separate district before the voters (or until the CIty does it on its own).
I outlined the process for liberating the libraries from budget hostage-taking in a post in 2008.