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Mayor Taps San Fran for New Library Leader

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In announcing the Chicago Public Library's new commissioner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel downplayed the issue of branch hours and focused on adapting the system in a time of changing media.

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In announcing the Chicago Public Library's new commissioner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel downplayed the issue of branch hours and focused on adapting the system in a time of changing media.

"Libraries are not just about bricks and mortar, they're not just about books and information," Emanuel said, announcing Brian Bannon, former CIO at the San Francisco Public Library, as Chicago's new library chief.

Bannon replaces Mary Dempsey, who resigned Tuesday amidst controversy over staff cuts and reduction in library branch hours after 18 years and 44 new libraries created.

Emanuel lauded Dempsey's tenure, crediting her with putting Chicago's libraries at the forefront of the country's library system. Still, the mayor said, it's time to move on.

"We are at the point though to write a new chapter," he said, noting libraries must adapt as newspapers move to iPhones and Amazon becomes the local bookstore for many. 

Chicago libraries will remain open six days a week in neighborhoods and seven days a week at main branches, Emanuel stressed. But he said the debate isn't about hours as much as what libraries will look like in these changing times.

"We need to define that next mission, write that next chapter and adapt to the changes in the world around them," he said. 

Bannon, who also worked with Seattle libraries and with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on expanding the system, especially during the summer months when kids are out of school.

Since Dempsey took the position in 1994, 44 new libraries have been built and several others have been renovated. She said Wednesday it was her decision to leave as commissioner.

"I plan to spend more time with my husband," she told reporters, "spend more time running our foundation and also spending more time with my work with the DePaul board of trustees."

"I'm grateful to my husband for patience in last 18 years," she said.

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