Former foes gather to celebrate new Evanston Library branch
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl talks with patrons and other city officials at the Chicago Avenue/Main Street Branch of the Evanston Public Library ribbon cutting ceremony. The citizens who fought to keep library service going deserve credit, said the ma
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:19AM
EVANSTON — Delia Sanchez didn’t much change her routine after the citizen- run The Mighty Twig was integrated into the Evanston Public Library system last month.
For she and her daughter Danielle, 10, it’s a quick trek either way — 15 minutes by bike during warmer weather.
Along with the convenience is the welcoming atmosphere at the library, renamed Chicago Avenue/Main (CAMs).
“Everybody knows everybody who comes here. It just like friends,” she commented.
A grassroots citizen group, Evanston Public Library Friends, opened the storefront library at 900 Chicago Ave. nearly two years ago. They vowed to keep library service running in South Evanston, after the Library Board voted to close the branch, a few blocks north, in a budget decision.
The citizen volunteers, along with library and city officials gathered at the site last week like former disputants after an armistice. The ribbon cutting ceremony marking the library’s status as a member of the city library system.
Give citizens credit, said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, among those celebrating the once rogue library. “I’m glad the library system is taking this branch under its wing again.
“But it’s an incredible tribute to all the volunteers. No one thought they could do this and they did. So it’s my congratulations to people who not only said what they believe but acted on it,” said Tisdahl, stressing she is committed to bringing similar strong neighborhood service to other communities.
President of the Evanston Public Library Friends Marcia Mahoney, who managed The Mighty Twig’s volunteer force, was among the former Twig alumni at the occasion.
“I hoped the day would come. I feared it wouldn’t and it’s just amazing it’s here,” said Mahoney, capturing the range of emotions.
Library Board member and attorney Michael Tannen, formerly EPLF’s legal strategist and a fiery field general in the long running dispute with the city, reflected on the full circle nature of the issue.
“It took a while for the library and its supporters to explain the beauty, necessity and relevance of libraries in the 21st Century,’’ he said. “Governor Quinn’s arrival here a couple of weeks ago (to announce a high speed Internet grant to the city) and the mayor’s appearance today show that we’ve done our job and people know what libraries are and what they can do for communities and education.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd, said the branch can serve as a hub in a revitalizing neighborhood.
The city is working on bringing a high office building to an adjacent corner. With 400 people in the building during the day, along with their customers and clients coming to the building, use of the library should go up, she said.
New parents in the Lincoln School neighborhood to the North are choosing to live in the area because of its walkabilty – one of the few places in all of Chicago land to have CTA and Metra stations back to back.
“This is the new urbanism,’’ the alderman declared.
Library Board Director Karen Danczak Lyons said the transition is “going beautifully” thus far. She said staff is bringing their knowledge of collections from the Main branch to the city branch, which worked under the honor system while operating as the Twig.
Meanwhile, library officials have taken note of some of the former citizen library practices, dropping registration in many cases.
“You can see story times are already popular,’’ said the director, taking note.