Aldermen Concerned About Library Budget Cuts

CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen at Friday’s City Council Budget Hearings said they hope there’s some way to prevent the big cuts in Public Library staffing and hours that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed.

As WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Emanuel’s budget plan would cut funding for libraries by $10 million and lay off scores of employees, including all library pages, who shelve books.

The plan would also call for closing branch libraries on Monday and Friday mornings, although they would remain open six days a week.

“Hearing what we’re going to be cutting in the library system, I don’t know that I can stomach that,” Ariel Reboyras (30th) said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

Several aldermen declared that many communities, especially the poorer ones, will be hurt if libraries lose staff and reduce their hours.

Ald. John Pope (10th) noted that libraries have faced cutbacks before and he asked Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey who is shelving books at the libraries.

“In 2010, we lost 10 percent of our staff – which was half of our library pages – and so everyone is re-shelving books,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey also said that even she and her top deputies are helping to sort books, although they are not re-shelving them.

But as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the cuts to the library system appears to be the first issue that truly resonates with most aldermen, as dozens spoke out in hopes of reversing the cuts to the libraries.

“It appears to me that we are maybe … cutting off our nose to spite our face. We’re adding 90 minutes to a school day, but we’re cutting library hours,” Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) said.

“They are 3 percent of this budget, but they are asking 50 percent of their budget to be cut. That’s ridiculous,” Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) said.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said, “It’s so unfair to already overburdened communities that are already underserved.”

One after another, aldermen spoke out against the cuts, wearing stickers saying “Don’t cut library services.”

Dempsey, a holdover from the Daley administration who led a drive that built 59 new libraries under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, said the mayor’s plan would force 284 layoffs and eliminate 268 job vacancies.

That includes four branch librarians, 11 child librarians and nine reference librarians. It also includes 112 clerks and all 146 pages charged with shelving books.

“If you have a third less staff, you can’t expect them to be Superman and work the same number of hours,” Dempsey said.

Patrons of the Richard M. Daley library branch in Humboldt Park said any loss of hours or staff would be a huge blow.

“Our kids need it, especially Monday through Friday. They need to come do their homework, so how they gonna cut their hours?” Gregory Petty said.

“I’ve been using this for my job search and everything. That’s why I come here,” Jackie Joseph said.

“This means a lot to me. I come here to get my books, stuff for my children. I come to use the computer and everything,” Shantel Silket said.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) hinted that aldermen might halt the mayor’s proposed library cuts.

“Well, I don’t think it’s a lost cause, because, you know, we all still have to vote on it at the end of the day. It’s not over until it’s over,” Burnett said. “We’re willing to negotiate, we’re willing to try and get some compromises, we’re willing to try and get them to try and work on some other things and adjust it a little bit.”

Late Friday afternoon, the mayor’s office issued a prepared statement, saying “We put forth a budget proposal which we think is the right thing to do for Chicagoans, but alderman have to weigh in.”

  • mike

    thats bs i bet anybody that dempsey doesnt even fix books,its a joke that this city tring to get rid of the ppl who help shelve books.what happnd in 09 they laid off ppl and got them back because they needed them.and that the regional libraries stay safe thats a JOKE!!!!!!hope the aldermans help the ppl out.

  • prettyisa

    The regionals and Harold Washington won’t be safe from staff cuts–those will be across the board. Their hours will stay open as much as possible to give people a place to go to get crucial services when their local branch is closed. But with a third less staff, how does anyone expect that all of the library branches will stay open? Maybe they’d only be open one day a week–how does that help kids or people looking for jobs? No one wants their local branch to close, but try to imagine any place you go regularly (your coffee shop, your supermarket, your bank) trying to keep the same hours and service with 32% fewer employees. It’s just not possible.

  • LOTD

    Here’s a novel idea……………………maybe these alderman should consider taking a pay cut. Considering they get great FULL-TIME pay and benefits for what amounts to a PART-TIME job for many of them. Just a thought.

  • Ron Johnson

    It’s wonderful to see aldermen from different parts of the city standing up for their neighborhood libraries!! Way up north in west rogers park[north town,west ridge or even rogers park] our new alderman won’t even speak to our little library’s staff.Appears to not even care about this issue.Will not respond to voters who have questions about where she stands on this issue.We need our libraries.Our little library on the 6400 block of north California avenue is busy all day every day.People wait for the doors to open and stay until they are asked to leave.If anything the hours of operation should be extended not shortened.

  • Mike Finnerty

    Eliminating the pages is a STUPID IDEA. The pages free up the librarians and para-professional staff to do there jobs> Rahm is a moron< I like the idea to cut aldermans pay…..WHY DON'T YOU TAKE A PAY-CUT TOO RAHM??????

    • SouthSideDiva


  • Bob Hamilton

    If the city would seek to develop commercial sponsorships, there would be enough money to have all of the libraries open 24 hours a day (which is what they should be). This idea could actually be applied to all areas of the city budget.

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    […] Emanuel’s budget plan would cut finding for libraries by $10 million and lay off scores of employe…, including all library pages, who shelve books. The plan would also call for closing branch libraries on Monday and Friday mornings, although they would remain open six days a week. […]

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