Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicago Public Libraries to Be Open All Day on Monday

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to backpedal on his decision to close the city's public libraries on Mondays. The controversial cost-cutting measure, which was announced in January, was immediately met with criticism not only from librarians, but also from library-goers. "I am convinced that shuttering public libraries on Monday is a disastrous decision that should be reconsidered," said teacher Jay C. Rehak in a January 9 letter to the Chicago Sun Times. "If Chicago is to remain a world-class city, it must maintain a world-class library system."

Emanuel reverses his earlier decision to close public libraries on Monday.
Image source: http://chicagopubliclibrary.tumblr.com/
In reaction to the swift public backlash, Emanuel stated in early February that Chicago Public Library branches will stay open on Mondays, but they will NOT be open all day - just from 2 to 6 PM in order to be accessible to kids when schools let out. "By opening branch libraries on Monday afternoons, we are providing students with a comfortable, safe place to study after school," Emanuel told the media. "As mayor, I've put children and education first and I will continue to ensure libraries are available to students after school." 

Now the Chicago mayor is saying that public libraries will be open all day on Mondays to best serve all members of the community, including caretakers of young children who like to go to storytime earlier in the day. Although Emanuel's complete reversal of his decision to close libraries on Mondays does benefit the library-going public, there is a catch: the city will hire "more than 100 workers to replace librarians," according to the Chicago Tribune. Replacing librarians with "lower-wage library pages [will] allow the city to offer a full day of service on Monday without additional cost, said Rahm Emanuel and Library Commissioner Brian Bannon on July 16, reported the Tribune.

The Chicago Public Library is far from alone in its push to replace librarians with non-librarians to save money. Still, this hiring trend among libraries is distressing to my library school classmates. But there is a hint of a silver lining for MLIS-degreed job seekers who would like to work at public libraries in Chicago. According to a July 16 press release from the Chicago Public Library, there is a "demand for a teen librarian position," which "will be focused on assisting teen patrons with learning the latest in YA literature, technology and interest-based learning. These new librarians will be hired over the next two years, the goal being to have one in each of the 79 Chicago Public Library locations."

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