Karen Danczak Lyons, director of Evanston Public Library (EPL), presented the Library’s proposed budget in City Council chambers on Oct. 29. The budget proposes revenues of just over $7 million, a 5.8% increase over last year. Expenses are budgeted just under $7 million, an increase of 5.5%. There is a surplus of $20,000.
Ms. Lyons said the Library has continued to have healthy usage. In the first three quarters of 2015, there have been 479,445 visits to the Main Library or its branches, 398,843 visits to its website, loans of 803,337 books, and 116,861 users of its Wi-Fi.
The Library continued to host a program in which the Center for Economic Progress assists people in preparing tax returns. The Center helped prepare 512 tax returns earlier this year, said Ms. Lyons.
EPL has also been actively expanding its services into the community. It reaches out to home-based day care centers and provides books and information about books to the centers. It has provided professional development to School District 65 librarians, teachers, and day care providers. It offers summer reading programs and added a new segment, “Read to Me,” to encourage parents to read with young children. It has an outreach program to homebound seniors and is looking for new ways to engage seniors. It is offering seniors volunteer opportunities at the library to get them involved.
“I want 25% of our work to be provided outside our walls,” said Ms. Lyons. She added, “We go to where our families are already gathering, and a focus has been on reaching out to young children. “We know reading and literacy and being ready to learn at kindergarten are indicators for future success.”
For 2016, some of the changes the Library has incorporated into its proposed budget include:
Improve the Library’s collections and invest in streaming media for expanded and immediate access to popular books, movies and music online;
Purchase Wi-Fi Hotspots that can be lent to patrons who could then have access to the Internet on a temporary basis at home. Ms. Lyons said patrons could use the Internet to fill out job applications, and students could use them to research papers. “We have families who don’t have Wi-Fi at home,” she said. She added that the EPL was also considering buying some Chromebooks, which are being used by students at Evanston Township High School and some District 65 schools. The Chromebooks could be checked out for use only at the Library.
Hire an additional person to provide security, so a security officer would be available at all times the Main Library was open. Ms. Lyons said part of the Library’s strategy is for security officers to connect with homeless patrons and potentially provide a bridge to social service agencies. If the State cuts funding to social services, the Library may see an increased usage by persons most affected by the cuts.
Fund a contractual technology trainer and the 2016 Storytelling Festival and Big Read community-wide reading program.
Purchase a Community Outreach vehicle that can be used to deliver books more efficiently throughout the community to barber shops, METRA stations, fairs, and other locations. The vehicle could also be stationed on a temporary basis in various locations throughout the community and used to lend books directly to library patrons.
Fund the next phase of the Main Library interior renovation project and minor renovations at the North Branch on Central Street and the South Branch Chicago Avenue and Main Street.
Property taxes are budgeted to increase to $6,054,180, a 4.1% increase over last year. For a home valued at $400,000, the increased taxes would be $11.27 per year, or about the cost of a paperback book, said Ms. Lyons.
Residents in Evanston spend about $80 per year on library services. By comparison, residents in Arlington Heights spend $178; Oak Park, $196; Skokie, $205; and Northbrook, $234.
Even with the property tax increase this year, “We are still behind northern suburbs’ libraries we often are compared with,” said Ms. Lyons.
EPL will hold a Truth in Taxation hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Nov.16, and the next Library Board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18. Both meetings will be held in the Library’s board room on the fourth floor of the Main Library and will include discussion of the budget. Both meetings are open to the public.