Chicago public libraries
would reduce hours as a result of cuts in the 2012 city budget
proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel
on Oct. 12.
Emanuel said the city’s 79 library branches will have to reduce their hours on Monday and Friday mornings under his proposed budget.
Only three regional libraries would maintain their regular schedules under the mayor’s proposal.
“We believe that this has the least impact on the public, but we need the collaboration of our library employees,” Emanuel told the Chicago City Council in his first budget address.
Emanuel said with cooperation from library employees, every neighborhood branch library can stay open six days a week but with reduced hours when the public is least likely to visit.
By reducing library access hours, the city would save $7 million, Emanuel said.
The library cuts are part of more than $400 million in reductions designed to close a $635 million deficit.
“When we have all the cuts, when it comes to all the reforms, all the efficiency and all the savings of this budget, it comes to the total of $470 million. That would eliminate two-thirds of the deficit,” Emanuel said.
Three regional libraries – Washington, King and Sulzer – would stay open seven days a week, said Ald. John Arena (45th), a member of the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation, which oversees libraries.
Arena said the city should allow the libraries to adjust their own schedules, depending on the community’s needs.
Arena, who has two libraries in his ward, said he wants to make sure the libraries are open when people need to use them more.
“[Libraries] know when their constituents are looking for services. We can do surveys in the communities to get the information, and I am happy to work with the administration to do that through my office,” Arena said.
The only concern for Arena is the loss of jobs.
“This will be one of the questions that I will ask in the budget hearings that are coming up,” said Arena.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said libraries are important for the communities because they serve as cultural centers.
“There is a lot of vibrancy, there is a lot of activity. It’s an area that we really need to sustain,” said Fioretti, who supports the mayor’s proposed cutbacks in hours.
Chicago public libraries provide free Internet access, and Fioretti said this is very important, especially for people who cannot afford it.
“I support more libraries. I don’t think we have enough. Some wards don’t have libraries,” Fioretti said.
A combination of head librarians and local residents should help make the decision about which hours to close, he said.
“If we use it in a smart fashion, we can combine resources between one library and the other one,” Fioretti said.