Tag Archive: budget cuts


Libraries holding…

Bright-eyed, sans coffee (thus no bushy tail), I sat in on the 9 a.m. budget meeting this morning at Evanston’s Lorraine Morton Civic Center. I’d told my husband Jed to expect me back by 11-ish.
Boy, was I wrong.

If you’ve never attended a city event like this, I recommend it. It’s like nothing else. Yeah, it was a budget meeting, but it was sort of like the high-end Volvo of budget meetings (a Cadillac just isn’t in the cards this year).

All nine Aldermen, the City Manager, and the City Clerk sat behind a long, high panel. Each official had a stationary microphone equipped with a light to signal when they wanted to speak. An ill-conceived game show? In your dreams. Throw in a revenues spreadsheet and multi-camera closed-circuit TV, and you’ve got yourself an eye-opening Saturday morning.

The politeness was rampant. It reminded me of the apology gun in James Kennedy‘s The Order of Odd-Fish, which I’m reading now (the gun is one of Sir Festus’s pieces of ludicrous weaponry, deriving from a people whose armies devastate with their mega-civility).

I sat behind the glass, in the closed-circuit seats, listening and empathizing with nearly every speaker. An overabundance of empathy probably excludes me from professional politics, and that’s fine with me. But I can’t help but admire these folks. If I were behind that high panel, I’m sure I would turn in to the equivalent of a banshee (which is to say I’d interrupt someone, raise my voice above a mild intonation, or forget to tap my nifty speech-light).

In this room, no one spoke out of turn. With so much ground to cover, it took foreverrrrrrr.

After almost two and a half hours, the council hadn’t officially broached the subject of the branch libraries. (Though, my ears perked up at pointed comments from aldermen who’d clearly like to close the branches – like, yesterday.) But because I had to be home by 12:30, I stole away before the subject du jour even came up. When I left, they were on the 33rd minute of an intense discussion on yard waste. The center’s lobby was piping Miles Davis’s “So What,” so at least I left laughing.

In the end, I got my update from today’s branchlove.org blog. It turns out that the same five aldermen are still in favor of keeping Evanston’s branch libraries open for six months, and this count will likely stand at the official vote on Tuesday night. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Update: Branchlove has become Evanston Public Library Friends. Check the blog for the latest news.

Here’s something to think on: Besides family, friends, and career… what would you sit through a budget meeting for?

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Dystopia hitting libraries too soon

This isn’t supposed to be happening. It’s not 2093, after all.

Thirty Decibels, the teen sci-fi manuscript I’m currently revising, is set three generations into the future – in 2093. Some of its central conflict stems from the impending closure of all libraries. (It may seem odd out of context, but the libraries in Thirty Decibels carry a different meaning.)

So when I heard about the possibility that Evanston’s libraries may close – that is, real libraries closing in present-day – I was floored. It was the dystopia I’d imagined, almost a century too soon.

There’d been a similar scare in Philadelphia last September, where all the city’s libraries were to close mere weeks later. I heard about it through an old friend, and retweeted the link. I couldn’t believe something like this could happen. But The Consumerist, source of the original story, soon ran an update that Philadelphia’s libraries had been saved by an online-sales tax.

Last month, I heard about Illinois’s library trouble. State budget cuts were anticipated to shut them down. Save Illinois Libraries gathered support, and the cuts were smaller than they could’ve been. The libraries have survived, but now they’re down to the quick in funding. Some of our elected officials have pledged support, but SIL could use Illinoisans’ help to drum up more. (You can also become their fan on Facebook.)

Support BranchLove

The latest library crunch looms in Evanston.
On February 2, the city council voted to close their branch libraries, even though visits are up from 2008. While grassroots organization BranchLove scrambled for non-profit status in order to accept donations, citizens pledged dollar-amounts of support via email. At February 4th’s city council meeting, 3rd-Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne and library activists set their sights on a six-month reprieve. This would keep the libraries open while a task force searches out alternate, long-term funding. Nothing is final; Evanston’s budget meeting is February 20, and the city council’s vote is February 22nd.

BranchLove.org co-founder Lori Keenan says it best:

We walk gingerly and think good things and are again, cautiously optimistic until the final vote (the one that counts) to pass the budget, as proposed, Monday night. It would be great once more to have as much support there on Monday night as possible.

And Evanston’s own Audrey Niffenegger, best-selling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, offers staunch support:

I grew up near the Central Street branch of the Evanston Library and I am not too happy to imagine it closing down. My mom took us there every week, we got to take home a stack of exciting books; it was my introduction to the whole concept of libraries. We could walk there from home. The experience made me a life-long library user. It seems very short-sighted to solve temporary budget problems with drastic solutions that benefit no one.

Show your support and help save Evanston’s branch libraries:

– Come to the budget workshop, Saturday, Feb. 20, 9am, at Evanston’s civic center
– Attend the city council meeting, Monday, Feb. 22nd, at 7pm
– Join BranchLove for a volunteer meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24th, at 7pm
Please send questions/thoughts/pledges to info@branchlove.org

I still can’t get over it – this is supposed to be fiction.

UPDATE: I attended the February budget meeting. Here’s what happened.

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