Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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South Branch Adds Sense Of ‘Neighborhood Unity’

By Megan CrepeauThe Daily Northwestern

The South Branch of the Evanston Public Library is home to scandalous romance novels, bilingual children’s books, several battered copies of “The Other Boleyn Girl” and near-constant doubt over how long it will stay open.

“It’s not a particularly pleasant thing … not to be able to know,” said Sally Schwarzlose, manager of the South Branch, of recent discussions about whether keeping it open is financial viable.

The South Branch, 949 Chicago Ave., and its northern counterpart at 2026 Central St. survived the latest budget season when the Evanston City Council decided to keep funding the two branches. The libraries barely squeaked by in a budget that cut total spending by about $3 million, after more than five years of debate about whether keeping the libraries, which receive fewer than 100,000 visitors each year, are worth keeping around while the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., gets more than 540,000 visitors a year.

“We’re not cutting jobs just to cut jobs, we are cutting functions,” said Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st) at a Jan. 27 council meeting. “(The library) to me is an essential service.”

The branches are safe for another fiscal year, at least through February 2008. The City Council also voted to extend the South Branch’s lease at their April 23 meeting.

But the issue has by no means been finalized.

There has been a southern branch of the Evanston Public Library for 90 years, according to Schwarzlose, and it has been housed in the same building for more than 70 years. The branch has a collection of fiction and non-fiction books for all ages, as well as books on tape, DVDs and magazines. For a small fee, the library orders materials from the other branches. There is also a book club and a children’s summer reading program.

These features have helped the libraries add a unique sense of neighborhood unity to Evanston, Schwarzlose said.

“There’s a kind of community that develops that makes me wish we had more (branch libraries),” she said. “It’s just part of people’s lives, but it’s an enriching part.”

Schwarzlose said the community benefits from having a place where economically, racially and linguistically diverse south Evanston residents can come.

“I think south Evanston is just the neatest place because it’s all of us mixed together,” she said.

South Evanston resident Jerjuan Coleman was studying math in preparation for the General Education Development Test at the South Branch on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s a pretty peaceful, stable environment.”

But Coleman said he wouldn’t miss it too much if the City Council decided to cut funding.

Coleman’s girlfriend, Shenitha Mitchell, who was with him at the South Branch, had a different point of view.

“I think it should be left in the community so people can have a library that’s within walking distance,” she said. “To be honest, I don’t know where the (Main Branch) is.”

Reach Megan Crepeau at [email protected].

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South Branch Adds Sense Of ‘Neighborhood Unity’