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Evanston Public Library officials are considering using an “Open Plus” system when their branch library opens as part of the new Robert Crown Community Center later this year, allowing card holders to use the branch beyond regular hours.

At the May 15 regular Evanston Public Library Board meeting, members backed a proposal in support of offering hours at Robert Crown that mirror those of the main library – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday through Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Those 72 hours are well over the 42 hours the current branches are open.

Board members also approved establishing 26 Open Plus hours for the new branch – when cardholders can use its services in early morning (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and evening (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) beyond regular hours.

The Open Plus system is gaining support elsewhere, especially in Europe, as a new approach to expanding access to libraries, Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons told the board during discussion of the issue.

She said the system would be an option provided to Evanston Public Library cardholders in good standing.

“The cardholders would review and sign an ‘acceptable use’ agreement which explains their responsibilities – asking that they dispose of litter properly, check out materials using the self-check before leaving,” she said.

Upon keying in their number and entering the branch, “the lights, self-check, computers, printers and cameras will be activated,” Ms. Danczak Lyons said.

During discussion at the May 15 meeting, Ms. Danczak Lyons stressed that the new system is not meant “to diminish the importance of having staff. If we could afford it, it would be great if we could be open from 5 a.m. to 1 p m.”
Library officials are hoping to reach new users at the Crown Center, scheduled to open in November and be in operation from 5 a.m. to midnight.

In discussion of the Open Plus proposal, Board member Rachel Hayman asked whether a group of teens wishing to use the new service for a study group in the 6-to-9 p.m. time slot would need to have their parents sign off for permission.

Ms. Danczak Lyons said the library’s policy on that would probably be the same one made when officials began distributing Wi-Fi Hotspots devices several years ago as part of their digital literacy program – that is, “If we can trust you to drive a car, we can trust you with a Wi-Fi hotspot.”

Board President Ben Schapiro spoke in support of the change because of the potential audience it can reach.

“I know a lot of people work non-traditional hours, and the 72 hours would really allow us to meet those needs better,” he said. In addition, “we’re working to expand access to the library, especially to communities that have been underserved for so long.”