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Emanuel Names Tech Expert As New Library Commissioner

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel with new library commissioner Brian Bannon and Linda Johnson Rice, head of Johnson Publications. She is the mayor's choice to replace Jayne Thompson as Library Board chairman. Bannon is replacing longtime commissioner Mary Dempsey. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel with new library commissioner Brian Bannon and Linda Johnson Rice, head of Johnson Publications. She is the mayor’s choice to replace Jayne Thompson as Library Board chairman. Bannon is replacing longtime commissioner Mary Dempsey. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio)

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UPDATED 01/26/12 6:57 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — In introducing a new team to head up the Chicago Public Library system, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said libraries need to think forward as technology constantly changes.

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Emanuel named Brian Bannon as the new chief executive officer of the library. He had been working as chief technology officer at the San Francisco Public Library, and said at a news conference that he is excited to be in Chicago.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

“We’re also excited about the moment Chicago is in right now, looking at the future of education, how technology and education, and innovation, can bring a society forward, and the critical role that libraries play in answering that question,” Bannon said.

In San Francisco, Bannnon spearheaded online and digital technologies, and oversaw the largest expansion project in the history of the library system there. He has also served posts in the Seattle Public Library and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mayor Emanuel says he wants Bannon to help schoolchildren keep from falling behind during the summer months when they’re not in school.

Bannon says he has already found examples of how to do so.

He said as a school librarian, “I launched this program that is working with summer reading during summer that actually allows kids to do book reports, video reviews, and share this one another, and so it’s a much more interactive way for kids to share with one another, and with other readers, what’s important and of value to them.”

As head of the libraries Bannon replaces Mary Dempsey, who had been retired Mayor Richard M. Daley’s longest-serving cabinet member.

Mayor Emanuel lauded Dempsey, who was also at the news conference.

“Since 1994, Mary Dempsey has transformed the lives of millions of children here in the city of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said, crediting her with moving neighborhood libraries from “cramped storefronts” to modern facilities.

Mayor Emanuel also named publisher Linda Johnson Rice as the president of the Library Board of Directors.

The Chicago library system has been through a tumultuous time lately. In a cost-cutting move, Mayor Rahm Emanuel laid off 172 library staffers and closed all the branches on Mondays.

Originally, Mayor Emanuel said he planned to close the libraries on Monday and Friday mornings when kids were in school.

But the mayor said the deal depended on an agreement with the union on more flexible hours, and because the union did not agree, the city had to close the libraries all day on Monday to save money.

Earlier this week, the mayor backed off on the move to close the libraries on Mondays, despite the library union’s refusal to make concessions.

But mayor said he would not restore all the cuts in library hours and jobs.

At the Wednesday news conference, Mayor Emanuel said the crucial issue now facing the libraries is not their hours, but their very mission.

“The debate is, what will libraries – our neighborhoods branch libraries – be like in this information age?” Emanuel said. “And we need to define that next mission, write that next chapter, and adapt to changes in the world around them. I mean, just in the last year, Borders has closed. Amazon has become your neighborhood bookstore, basically. And we have to figure out how our libraries and our branch libraries – which are so important to our neighborhoods – are going to adapt, and change, and prosper, in this information age.”

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