Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Libraries Stand up to Rahm Budget

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Teachers, librarians and parents gather in front of the mayor's office.

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Library workers aren't gonna take it. No, they ain't gonna take it anymore.

Chicago librarians, clerks and pages on Monday filed petitions to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in opposition to cuts outlined in his proposed 2012 city budget.

Dubbed “Story Time at City Hall,” library employees read Halloween books to children outside the mayor's office in City Hall. They presented thousands of signatures against reducing library staff by more than 550 positions and against cutting hours that would close branches for two half-days per week.

“They are trying to cut $10 million from the libraries, but a prior appropriation already put $11 million in library building and renovations," said Anders Lindall, a representative of AFSCME. "They’re going to have nicer libraries with less services and less stuff.”

Chicago's libraries previously got short shrift from former Mayor Richard Daley, who cut hours and jobs in previous budgets.

“My libraries are very heavily used," said Ald. John Arena (45th). "At a time like this older people and low-income residents use the library for their internet, to look for jobs. Overall, the cuts are just too extreme."

Emanuel said in his budget speech earlier this month that he worked to keep neighborhood branches open because he values them. But librarians and even parents say it's not enough.

“We think this is not the place to find savings," said Julie Samson, a Portage Park mother. "It just deprives so many families and children of such a safe place to learn and have fun.”

Greta Lindall, 5, echoed her mom's words. "I like that we can go to the library and borrow books and bring them back. I really like the Laura [Ingalls Wilder] books.”

The petition reads: "We, the undersigned, value our city libraries. We support full funding of the Chicago Public Libraries that will enable them to be open, accessible, and fully staffed by dedicated professionals at all current operating hours and locations."

"The Chicago Public Libraries are city treasures, community centers, welcoming to children and families, and important resources for a multitude of community needs," the petition reads. "We urge you to join us in full support for the libraries, reverse threatened cuts and provide the adequate funding they need."

Last week Occupy Chicago took on City Hall, filing petitions for a permanent, public space for protesters to occupy. Emanuel said no.

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