As EPL explores relocation of CAMS branch, residents express concerns


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. The soonest EPL could move its Chicago Avenue and Main Street branch farther south is 2021, after the lease for the branch’s current location was renewed.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

Jesse Miller, a stay-at-home father, and his daughter Ramona visit Evanston Public Library’s Chicago Avenue and Main Street branch twice a week on average. Both are residents of the 9th Ward; however, the branch’s location on the edge of the 3rd Ward is within walking distance for them.

Miller has been bringing his daughter to the branch since she was an infant. He said the branch has allowed him to build a community with other parents and caregivers in the area. But that community, and its relationship to the library, may be changing soon.

The library’s Board of Trustees has discussed the idea of relocating the branch further south to reach wards that have historically been underserved. The south branch is far enough from the southernmost and westernmost sections of the 8th and 9th Wards to limit many residents’ contact with the library, according to board secretary Ruth Hays.

The relocation appeared on the board’s Oct. 16 meeting, but members voted 5-4 in favor of renewing the lease of the branch’s current location for another year. The soonest a transition can occur is 2021.

For over a century, southern Evanston has had a library branch. Originally opened in 1917, the south branch was EPL’s first attempt at expansion beyond its main location. Since then, the branch has moved three times and changed management once.

Before this new proposal, no relocation has moved the branch out of a two block radius of the original building. No new space has been proposed yet, as the project is still in its earliest stages, but a move further south would take the branch out of an area it’s been a part of for generations.

However, the board has said a relocation will better serve the 8th and 9th Wards. With the addition of the Robert Crown Community Center — slated to open in late February in southwest Evanston — as well as the possible relocation of the south branch, board president Shawn Iles said he hopes the library will still be accessible to all who currently use it, while also expanding its reach.

“In moving the branch, we want to do the most good for the most people,” Iles said.

Though the potential relocation may allow new residents to access the libraries, some residents who live close to the branch have become attached. Patrons, like Sharon Glazer, have visited the location for years.

Glazer said she has used the branch since her daughter was young, when the two checked out books together. In her retirement, she continues to frequent the CAMS location.

“It’s always been a part of my life, to use the library,” Glazer said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like if people didn’t have a place to borrow books, to use the computers, if they didn’t have the children’s reading room. I just take it for granted.”

Miller, who often checks out multiple children’s books a week, said he is thankful for the convenience, because he can borrow quantities of books for his daughter that he couldn’t otherwise afford.

Matthew LaChapelle found his first job at the library when he was a teenager. He said the volunteer role at CAMS prepared him for future employment and allowed him to connect with the community.

LaChapelle said his experiences at the branch have been positive, both as a volunteer and a community member. Growing up with Down Syndrome, he said he appreciated the level of respect and responsibility he was treated with by library patrons and coworkers alike, and he still feels welcome later in life.

Because the CAMS branch has played a key role in his life, LaChappelle said he knows the branch will be missed by those who live near it, so he would be sad to see it moved from its current location.

Miller said he plans to continue bringing his daughter to the library no matter what happens, though he isn’t sure how the possible relocation would affect their weekly trips.

“Right now, it’s convenient for us, but I understand the board needs to take in the bigger picture,” Miller said. “Moving it further south might make it more equitable. It’s certainly convenient for us where it’s at. But if it reaches more people who couldn’t otherwise use it, that makes sense to me.”

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