Save Chicago Public Library!

A great editorial cartoon from the Chicago Sun-Times opposing cuts to city libraries.

Source: [Chicago Sun-Times](

In case you haven’t heard, Chicago Mayor [Rahm Emanuel wants to slash funding for Chicago Public Library](). And, as [two of Chicago’s aldermen noted]( at a budget hearing two weeks ago, the mayor is looking to take this huge cut out of a city department that accounts for 3% of Chicago’s annual budget and is comprised of people who are not paid handsomely for their work. An astute observation, because of the more than 700 layoffs Mayor Emanuel is proposing, more than 500 are from Chicago Public Library.

If Mr. Emanuel thought that this cut would sail through unopposed, though, he was wrong.

The people of Chicago have responded brilliantly, thanks to a campaign by CPL staff that has been supported by numerous aldermen and the public in general. [The petition to fully fund Chicago Public Library]( has drawn more than 5000 signatures and the Library and its supporters have been keeping the pressure on the City Council. I was even surprised to see [a (very bad) picture of myself in the Chicago Tribune](

[Picture in the Paper]( “‘Picture in the Paper’ by Rob Dumas, on Flickr”)

I’ve heard that I was shown on TV, too, but I haven’t seen that, so I’m assuming that I look equally terrible, there.

Anyway, after [several weeks of fighting hard](), we’ve managed to move the Mayor, but only a bit. He’s offered to restore $3 million of the original $11 million that he wanted to cut from CPL, but to be honest, that’s really nothing more than an attempt to placate the aldermen and make the backlash go away.

This is a make-or-break moment for Chicago Public Library and that’s not just because my job is at risk, but because the services we provide are now in serious jeopardy.

Worst of all among these cuts, the Mayor wants to lay off all of CPL’s library pages. They shelve the books and they’re the lowest-paid employees at CPL. In truth, though, they’re probably our most important employees, because a librarian who spends all of her time shelving is a librarian who isn’t able to spend time teaching computer classes, hosting a children’s story time or helping an unemployed patron write a résumé.

I have written a letter to my alderman, which I am posting here. You are free to re-use as much or as little of this letter as you like, but if you live in Chicago, **please [sign our petition]( and [write]( or [call your alderman]( – *today* – and tell them to *fully fund Chicago Public Library*.**

> Alderman Pawar:
> **As one of your constituents, I would like to express my opposition to the cuts proposed to the Chicago Public Library in Mayor Emanuel’s 2012 budget, as well as to Mr. Emanuel’s offer to restore a small (and in my opinion, inadequate) portion of the cut funding. I would like to voice my support for full funding of the Chicago Public Library in 2012.**
> Chicago Public Library is a valuable resource, serving all Chicagoans without regard to race, gender, religion, political affiliation or income level. Any Chicagoan, from the poorest to the wealthiest, can go to their local library and avail themselves of its many resources. Those resources would be be dramatically affected by the loss of so much money from this system and despite what Mayor Emanuel has said, I believe that laying off one-third of Chicago Public Library’s workforce would result in severe disruptions to the quality and variety of its service.
> More and more services are going “online only” every year (just ask anyone who’s searching for a job in this economy), but there are still many people in Chicago who cannot afford a computer or home Internet service. I have many friends who bring their young children to the library for “story time” or who participate in programs like One Book, One Chicago as a means of broadening their horizons.
> Regardless of whether we are talking about $11 million or $8 million, these cuts are unreasonably severe and punish people and services upon whom many Chicagoans depend, thereby unreasonably punishing those very same Chicagoans in turn.
> You are fond of saying that “all response is local”. I would like to ask you to consider a question in reply:
> **Can our city truly be improved when its ability to respond to its citizens (locally, quickly, efficiently or even at all) is diminished?**
> Yours,
> Robert Dumas