Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to reopen Chicago’s branch libraries on Monday afternoons. The mayor tried to blame the closures on union intransigence but was forced to reverse them after complaints from aldermen and readers.
The decision, however, does not take effect immediately. For the second working Monday in a row, Chicago’s branch libraries are closed. In protest, AFSCME Council 31, the librarians’ union, is holding “People’s Library Hours” starting at 10:15 a.m., at the following three branches
- Bucktown, 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave.
- Little Village, 2311 S. Kedzie Ave.
- Beverly, 1962 W. 95th St.
According to an AFSCME press release, “librarians will read stories to children, supporters will enjoy books, hot chocolate and music, and employees and patrons will call on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council to restore full-day Monday hours and return to work all library employees who were laid off Jan. 2.”
When Emanuel closed libraries on Monday, he also laid off 200 employees. As part of the reopening, he’ll bring back 65.
"Recalling some employees to work and restoring some library hours appears to be a step in the right direction, and a sign that the mayor is starting to appreciate the importance of libraries," said AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer in a statement. "But Chicago residents in the neighborhoods, library employees and our union want the branches fully open and fully staffed."
AFSCME, of course, would like the libraries open all day, six days a week, with all its members back at work. It’s not true, exactly, that half a book is better than none. But that’s what librarians will have to settle for.