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A Happy Ending: City Libraries Back To Regular Schedule

We wanted to let you know some very good news: Thanks to you and thousands of other Chicago residents who made clear the importance of your neighborhood branch, staffing and hours have been almost completely restored throughout the Chicago Public Libraries system. Over the past few weeks, nearly all of the library employees who were laid off last winter were recalled to work, and the library's "summer hours" have returned the system to its regular schedule.

As you know, last fall Mayor Emanuel proposed a budget that would have cut library hours on Mondays and Fridays and eliminated 552 library staff positions. Knowing how much Chicagoans value their public libraries, we launched a campaign that let library lovers like you push back against these cuts.

We started with "story time" in front of the mayor's office on Halloween. Hundreds of people showed up, including kids in costumes, people with handmade "I love my library" signs, and concerned library staff. Together we delivered petitions signed by more than 5,000 Chicago residents. And in the following days we made thousands of calls to aldermen and garnered citywide media coverage of this outpouring of public support. In response to the outcry, the mayor agreed to restore the funding needed to reverse some, but not all, of his planned cutbacks.

In January, the city began closing libraries all day on Mondays. Once again concerned citizens from across Chicago came together to press for full funding of the public library system. We held "People's Library Hours" with hot cocoa and colorful signs in front of the closed library branches. And once again the mayor responded, agreeing to keep the libraries open on Monday afternoons.

But he also ordered the layoff of more than 120 library pages, the system's lowest-paid, part-time employees who keep shelves restocked when materials are returned. With the pages gone, librarians struggled to keep up, taking time away from assisting patrons to restock shelves. Lines were long, and often books just piled up for weeks.

Fortunately, reason prevailed, and in recent weeks nearly all the pages have been recalled to work. Bringing them back will improve access to books and free up other library staff to serve patrons and conduct popular programs. And for now, branch libraries are open a full eight hours on Mondays.

Library staff are hopeful that CPL will maintain these hours into the fall. If not, however, we know we can count on thousands of supporters like you to again speak out in defense of their libraries.

Thank you for standing up for Chicago's vibrant network of neighborhood branch libraries.


Comments welcome.


Posted on July 6, 2012

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