South Branch Library identifies interim space

Grace Johnson

After a thorough search, Evanston Public Library Friends has found a temporary site for the South Branch and is making an attempt to secure it, said Lori Keenan, vice president of the organization.

While the site, 900 Chicago Ave., must still be approved at the Library Board meeting next week, EPL Friends has a letter of intent from the landlord and will be touring the potential site Tuesday with the Board’s South Branch transition committee, Keenan said.

“The location is great,” she said. “It’s near the train station, adjacent to Starbucks and in a residential area.”

The search for an interim location was sparked when the Board approved the Library Friends’ plan to raise funding for the temporary location. The South Branch has been in financial jeopardy for some time. Last year, EPL Friends raised $108,400 in conjunction with $50,000 from the Evanston Public Library Board to extend operations at the South Branch for six months, through February of this year.

The South Branch’s lease at its current location, 949 Chicago Ave., will be terminated Feb. 26. It is closing due to the limited amount of funds allocated to the Evanston Public Library Board in the city budget.

While the details of the impending lease agreement have not been released, Keenan said the term of lease is flexible.

“The term is for a year,” she said. “The landlord is very agreeable and if we wanted to stay longer it could be worked out.”

The new location is smaller than the South Branch’s current location and will take on a new philosophy as a library “outpost” rather than a branch, Keenan said.

“I would say the biggest difference will be the size of the collection,” said Marcia Mahoney, EPL Friends board member and former South Branch assistant. “We are trying to create something in a small space, which means we won’t have room for a deep collection.”

While the outpost will carry recent releases of books, DVDs and other materials, older items will have to be obtained through the holds system and Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Mahoney said. Materials not carried over to the potential outpost will be reallocated to the Main Library. The conversion of the branch into an outpost is being coined an “extreme library makeover,” Mahoney said.

With news of the South Branch’s move, EPL Friends has received offers of support from a Boston library offering shelving and donated service from interior designers, architects and space planners, Keenan said.

“The library community has really been great,” she said. “The word is out on the street and people are going out of their way to help us.”

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