CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Library on Wednesday announced that it is reducing the number of locations that will be allowed to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Previously, all branches had been open.
“Chicago libraries serve as social safety nets for our communities – where our young people become lifelong learners and technology centers connect our residents to the world,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a news release. “Although some libraries will close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we know residents and neighborhoods will continue to need access to the resources they provide.”
A total of 61 library locations will close on Saturday. Beginning Monday, 17 branches – as well as the Harold Washington Library Center, the Sulzer Regional Library on the North Side, and the Woodson Regional Library on the South Side, will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Only Harold Washington Library Center and the regional libraries will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Regular hours will continue through Saturday, March 21, and all locations will be closed Sunday, March 22.
“Libraries play a crucial role as a safety net in communities and provide trusted and reliable information, particularly in times of crisis,” CPL Commissioner Andrea Telli said in a news release. “To ensure Chicagoans in dire need are still able to rely on libraries for basic services, we will continue to provide limited library services in strategic locations spread across the city.”
As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reported, the center of the discussion had been whether libraries fall into a category like schools, which have closed, or like mass transportation, which remains open as a public service.
The signs on the doors of Chicago public libraries warn patrons to stay away if they are ill and have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Inside the Rogers Park Branch, we easily found examples of patrons working closely beside each other at computer terminals, the spacing less than ideal for healthy social distancing.
While at least one patron wore protective gloves at the terminals, most others did not.
We also found Luis Masias, getting to work at a table all by himself.
“I think it’s more important, libraries, than a bar for the life of everybody,” Masias said.
We found those same close conditions at several other libraries, though we also saw people doing their best to maintain a healthy social distance. Our cameras also captured a gloved cleaning staffer wiping down surfaces.
It is a different story in suburban Evanston, where libraries are completely closed, entrances blocked off with construction barriers. Signs say it will remain like that through April 12 to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
“I run the risk because I have no computer at home, no printer, and I need these kind of services,” Masias said.
Since March 13, Chicago public libraries have cancelled all events at their locations, and they’ve removed items like play toys from children’s areas.