Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Save Chicago Public Libraries

Dear Mayor Rahm Emmanuel
Alderman James Cappleman
Ms. Laura Jenkins, Librarian Uptown Branch

I am writing in regard to the proposed budget cuts to the Chicago Public Library. Chicago now is considered a national model in the use of libraries as magnets for development. Do you actually want to forfeit Chicago’s standing in this area?

In 1994 the former Mayor Richard M. Daley tapped Mary Dempsey to be library commissioner for the Chicago Public Library. Ms. Dempsey, not only oversaw the opening of the Harold Washington Library, but also added 40 new libraries. In addition she improved the 79-branch network — many of whose facilities had been located in small, leased storefronts — but anchored the revitalization of entire neighborhoods. When the private sector saw the city investing in handsome, freestanding library buildings, new businesses, restaurants and mixed-income housing followed. Chicago NEEDS libraries if it wants to attract new businesses.

Also, who did Mayor Daley turn to in a time of personal and professional crisis when faced with a minority-contracting scandal in the purchasing department—a librarian. Ms. Dempsey streamlined the purchasing process, eliminating a backlog of contracts and revamping the affirmative-action program in an effort to identify white-owned businesses that were using women and minorities as fronts. Chicago NEEDS librarians if it wants to help solve its budgeting problems—not eliminating librarians.

The Chicago Public Library serves 12 million visitors per year. No other cultural, educational, entertainment or athletic organization in Chicago can make that claim. In addition, the libraries are there for children after school to work on homework or to catch latch-key kids while parents work. Without libraries these kids will be out on the streets. With Chicago’s widening gang problem is this what we want—more children available to the gangs? The libraries also act as warming/cooling facilities for the city’s elderly and other at-risk populations. Where will community advisories send people who need these necessary services—to the city’s hospitals, to City Hall, to Starbucks and Best Buy? Chicago NEEDS libraries to keep or even expand their hours.

If Chicago really is the city that works—then work with the Chicago Public Library to keep LIBRARIANS, HOURS OF SERVICE, AND A REASONABLE BUDGET FOR NEW BOOK PURCHASES. It would only be wrong to cut any of the above and expect to keep Chicago as a city of prestige.

Jane Hertenstein
A loyal CPL patron

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