At its Sept. 15 meeting, the library board approved guidelines for the preparation of the budget for fiscal year 2011. As promised to the community, the board’s decisions were fiscally prudent, causing some consternation among the Evanston Library Friends group. The Friends coalesced as an ad-hoc funding group after City Council allocated only enough funds to keep the North and South branch libraries open for six months. City Council told branch library supporters that if they wished to have the branches continue to operate after Aug. 31, they would have to raise $160,000. The Friends raised about $10,000 more than that, much of it from private sources and individuals in the community. While the Friends group concentrated on keeping the two branches open, they also emphasized the necessity of library services, including expanding branch library service.

Library board president Dr. Christopher Steward told the RoundTable the guidelines included “using the present fiscal year’s budget as a guide, trying to avoid approving any increase in the library budget that would cause tax increases based on the library board’s voting and accepting the increased personnel and other cost increases.” Some of the cost increases – about $250,000 – will arise from union contract considerations, he said; others will be the result of increased costs of materials.

The library’s Paul Gottschalk distributed information describing different scenarios resulting from varying allocations of funds. The allocations will be discussed at the Sept. 22 library board meeting, Dr. Stewart said. He said he anticipated a “long and impassioned discussion.”

The vote to approve the guidelines was 5-3, with Dr. Stewart on the dissenting side. However, he said, “The bigger picture here is the library fund and that is the long-term strategy. The board has made it clear that we’re sensitive to the community. We will continue to move in the direction of a library-fund model. What happens in an abridged fiscal year will not change our long-term strategy.” He added, “The shortened fiscal year presents some long-term strategies and opportunities for dialog. It is so amazing to me to see this kind of engagement and passion about a library.”