Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chicago library plans to cut hours at its branches in 2010

Hours at branches in the Chicago Public Library system will be reduced Monday through Thursday under a plan to take effect in January that is still being worked out, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday.There would be no changes at the Harold Washington Library, as well as the city's two regional libraries, Sulzer on the North Side and Woodson on the South Side. The new hours would take effect at the beginning of January. Hours already vary at the 76 local branches, but some are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Under the plan, the earliest opening time would be 10 a.m., and the latest closing time would be 8 p.m.The hours of libraries serving a particular area would be staggered, so one might open at 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., while the other would open at noon and close at 8 p.m., she said.The changes are necessary because the libraries have had a hiring freeze for years that has eroded staffing levels. That was compounded earlier this year when the system laid off 120 of 279 pages, who put books back on shelves, because their union would not agree to concessions sought by Mayor Richard Daley amid the ongoing budget crunch. The staff reductions over time also resulted in uneven service at the branches, in terms of both hours open and staff working at them, she added. Under the new system, services would be more even across the system. How this will affect the Whitney Young Branch, already scheduled for demolition for a newly-constructed branch anyway, has not yet been determined by the Chicago Public Library's Facilities Committee, not even an interim alternative site.

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