For all of you who may have missed Ald. Mark Tendam's letter regarding the funding of the libraries, I have posted it here. The library system is a valuable economic and social element of the neighborhoods and the city manager has cut the budget and the branches. If you want to have access to a branch library after March 2011, then call your alderman, the mayor and let them know how much you care. And please let Mark know your thoughts on the letter.
Following is the letter Mark wrote, which was published in triblocal:
Branch Libraries a Year Later
Over the course of the last year we have seen the emergence of an amazing grassroots organization, Evanston Public Library Friends. Their strengths in numbers, dedication, creativity and enthusiasm are unlike any I’ve seen in our community.
This program of public awareness has opened many minds to a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our current library system. It has offered alternatives for fund raising and has engaged in fund raising efforts that exceeded all expectations with both amount and timing.
Through the course of the past year's discussion of this issue, we have learned that Evanston Public Library’s North and South Branches are destinations not only for children and students, but a growing number of residents in need of high-speed internet access to maintain an email address or search and apply for jobs. The branches provide many seniors a comfortable retreat not all that far from their homes. The North Branch in particular has, for decades, been part of the economic well-being of the Central Street Business District.
We have also learned that the branches are a tiny part of the Library’s overall budget and that the usage numbers for these facilities are not only large but growing.
Perhaps this is why at the City’s public workshops and in the on line polling, the branch libraries ranked third in importance after the police and fire departments. In the face of all of this, why are the branches "on the cutting block" again this year?
We have a long list of larger and more critical items to discuss in this next round of budget debates — street crime, affordable housing, mental and physical health services and child and seniors services will top the list.
Pitting the branch libraries against these issues is really a false debate. First, the small cost of the branches is out of scale with the cost of many other city services and programs. More importantly the branches and the library as a whole are a vital part of solving these larger issues.
Today’s social problems are largely a result of poverty and neglect. While City services can help alleviate some of these "triggers" we cannot forget that access to good schools, libraries and learning programs that capture and stimulate young minds is one of the best ways that we can battle the causes of poverty and crime at their root.
Neighborhood libraries can (and I would argue should) be viewed not so much as “branches” but as the “roots” of our library system. The personal and inviting environments of our North and South Libraries have been instrumental in many residents’ lifelong “love” of the library. We have the public will to bring library services to all of Evanston’s neighborhoods. The Friends group has the momentum. Let’s do it.
Alderman, Evanston 6th Ward