Evanston Public Library is among the community-based organizations working with Family Focus officials to explore the future uses of the agency’s building, 2010  Dewey Ave., as part of a larger Foster Campus concept. 

The library is participating in the discussions around the possibility of having a Fifth Ward branch located there as part of the future plans for the building, Library Board Director Karen Danczak Lyons reported at the Board’s Dec. 15 meeting. 

The building once housed Foster School, closed more than 50 years ago. Earlier this year, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 formed a committee to make recommendations on a Fifth Ward school by March 2022.

“As discussions occur in the future, I will be bringing options to the Board for your considerations once I have a more fully developed concept in partnership with some of these other important community-based organizations,” Danczak Lyons told trustees at the meeting, held both in-person and virtual. 

A branch library last served the west side in the early 1980s. 

In August of 2020, Library trustees voted to close permanently two other branches that were operating – the Chicago Avenue/Main Street (CAMS) Branch at 900 Chicago Ave.,  and North Branch, at 2026 Central St., – by the end of that year. 

The new Robert Crown Branch, 1801 Main St., as well as the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., are the two city libraries currently in service. 

At the time of the closing, trustees spoke of the need, with the pandemic already affecting resources, to prioritize branch service to focus on communities that have historically been underserved. 

The library at Robert Crown, which officially opened in October 2020, is seeing about 40 to 60 young people a day, mostly in the afternoons, Danczak Lyons reported. 

If a space exclusively for teens were included at a 5th Ward Branch, “that would quickly expand our footprint from 6,000 square feet – the size of the Crown Branch – to something much larger,” she said. 

Other library staff members joined Danczak Lyons, speaking about what they had learned in conversations with community members about different patterns of usage at Crown, as well as the two branches that were closed.

Library Board President Tracy Fulce said the information fell in line with an emphasis on strategic planning, a topic of discussion earlier at the same board meeting. 

Earlier in the meeting, trustees had discussed the importance of strategic planning. 

“Having  a clear vision allows us to facilitate the appropriate conversations and to leverage those conversations into our decision-making,” Fulce said. 

“And ultimately, we can add it to our budgets. So we know we’re spending X number of dollars because it relates to the strategic vision that we have.”

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.