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Budget Cuts Bring Problems For Chicago Libraries

By Staff in News on Sep 6, 2009 5:45PM

Photo by mmmmarshall
Stacked books, fired pages, it sounds like budget cut season has descended for Chicago-area libraries. Stocking books is a job that is usually left to library pages, but in mid-July, Mayor Richard Daley fired almost half of the 279 pages after the library employee union couldn’t agree on budget cuts. With fewer pages to help circulate books, upper-level library staff were forced to pick up the slack. The library cuts are only part of the ongoing battle between Daley and the city’s unions over projected pay cuts in order to help balance the budget. The librarians’ union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Teamsters union were the only two that didn’t take pay cuts, and thus 431 city employees were let go from both unions.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, library spokeswoman, Ruth Lednicer, claimed that the layoffs were not a funding cut, "Yes, it hurts, absolutely it hurts us. But it isn't something where the city made targeted cuts on specific departments. This is something where everybody was asked to take furloughs to help close the budget gap," Lednicer said. "That union chose not to make the concessions to keep the jobs."

Although Lednicer may not feel that the city is targeting libraries, local library patrons who belong to small branches with high circulation aren’t happy. Gail Hoover of Edgewater has even started volunteering at the Edgewater Branch, "They just need help, period. I don't really care where it comes from," Hoover told the Tribune. "They don't even have time to shelve books. It's just a staffing issue. It's not just them, but their circulation's so high and the staff is so low."

Post by: Anna Deem