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The Mechanics
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Budget Wed Oct 26 2011

Layoffs Planned at the Chicago Public Library

As part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's preliminary 2012 budget [PDF], all Chicago Public Library (CPL) branch locations will have eight hours cut from their schedule. In addition to those hour cuts, the city announced that 284 positions would be cut, approximately a third of the staff for the system.

Among the positions that will be cut are librarians, library clerks and library pages. Pages are part-time employees responsible for shelving and other tasks that keep the library running smoothly.

According to AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall, in addition to the library employees that will be laid off, there will also be 268 vacant positions that will be eliminated.

"Given the expansion of the library system, that capacity is needed," Lindall said.

The CPL has experienced deep cuts in the past two years, starting in 2009 when then Mayor Richard M. Daley laid off more than 100 library employees. The following year, hours were cut in an attempt to get by with a reduced staff.

"What we're seeing from Mayor Emanuel would be an action that would repeat and compound Mayor Daley's mistake," Lindall said.

AFSCME's response to the proposed staffing reductions was quick. On Friday, the union launched SaveChicagoLibraries.com, an online petition to show support for maintaining the library's budget. According to Lindall, about 60 library employees went to the city's budget meeting on Friday and talked to aldermen about the proposed cuts. The library employees also passed out stickers to show support for library staff, and nearly 20 aldermen were wearing the stickers during the meeting.

"We've got an economy right now with a quickly eroding middle class and to wipe out the jobs of librarians with several years of experience who live in the city is the wrong priority for the mayor," Lindall said.

The preliminary budget states that there will be three YOUmedia locations added to the system at the Rudy Lozano, Thurgood Marshall and Richard M. Daley library branches. YOUmedia is a digitally focused Young Adult library that is currently only at the Harold Washington Library Center (HWLC). If the planned YOUmedia locations are anything like the one at the HWLC, there would need to be new equipment obtained, including video game consoles.

The CPL would not comment about the library budget and the Mayor's Press Office did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the number of signatures for SaveChicagoLibraries.com continues to grow as residents of the city, sign and leave comments as to why they needs their public libraries. Among the comments are people talking about how much they love the variety of books there available and the safe space the library provides for students to do homework.

As of this writing, there are more than 2,000 signatures.

"The idea of a place that's freely available to all and dedicated to public learning and knowledge is intrinsically American. So people are very upset that the Emanuel budget would hurt this gem of our city," Lindall said.

The cuts and layoffs are at this point only proposed since the budget for the 2012 fiscal year hasn't been approved by the city council at this point.

 
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