Decision Driven by Equity Efforts, Diminished Budget and Public Safety Measures
August 19, 2020 — With two unanimous votes of 9-0 the Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees approved the permanent closure of the Chicago Ave./Main St. (CAMS) Branch and the North Branch at the end of the year. The Robert Crown Branch (as well as the Main Library) will continue operations while future Library locations are explored based on equity and need across the city.
“The Library, as good stewards of the Evanston taxpayer dollar, is morally obligated to seek out and pursue the most efficient and affordable path to serving the community with equity,” said Executive Director Karen Danczak Lyons. “We began re-evaluating all EPL locations with an equity lens well before the pandemic gripped us with public health challenges.”
The Library is focusing resources on the Main Library and the Robert Crown Branch – locations that due their size, can safely open during the pandemic. The new Robert Crown Branch serves and engages portions of our community, including more Latinx and Black constituents, that have never had proximate access before.
“All public institutions should be re-examining how they distribute resources within the communities they serve and the Evanston Public Library is no exception. A fair reallocation of resources is necessary, difficult, and overdue,” said Shawn Iles, President of the Library Board of Trustees.
Over the past seven years, the Library has expanded community engagement through local not-for profits and business organizations, as well as through mobile facilities, free food distribution programs, and partnerships with churches, schools, low income senior facilities, community centers, vet centers, after-school programs, and programs serving those with special needs, among others. Now, with the pandemic negatively impacting already limited resources, the Library is re-prioritizing branch services to focus on communities that have been historically underserved. As the Library explores a greater presence in the Fifth Ward, it has been in regular conversation with Family Focus leadership about how they re-imagine their facility.
“Our commitment to meeting the diverse expectations and needs of residents across Evanston is steadfast,” says Danczak Lyons. “We are building upon and moving beyond our accomplishments, acknowledging our mistakes, and working toward repair. We believe all of Evanston is willing to stand behind the fact that our mission and our values direct us to prioritize those needs.”