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Parents, librarians protest Chicago library cuts

Updated: December 2, 2011 8:13AM

Chanting “No More Cuts,” librarians delivered petitions bearing 4,000 signatures to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office on Monday to protest the mayor’s plan to reduce library hours and impose draconian job cuts that would impact library services at all hours.

Stay-at-home moms and their toddlers, who were dressed in Halloween costumes, sat on the floor outside the mayor’s fifth-floor office as librarians, also in costume, read stories out loud.

Story time for kids is a popular feature at branch libraries across the city, but librarians say they won’t have time to do it if Emanuel proceeds with his plan to cut 363 “full-time equivalent” positions, triggering 284 layoffs and the elimination of 268 vacancies.

That includes 24 librarians, four of them branch managers, 11 of them children’s librarians; 112 clerks and all 146 of the remaining pages charged with shelving books.

“The staff will be so short, we will be spending all of our time just trying to keep books on the shelves, keep the computers running, keep the doors open,” said Caroline Broren, a children’s librarian.

Librarian Sara Holtkamp noted that she helped three people search for jobs for a “solid amount of time” on Saturday.

“If there wasn’t anyone else working, I don’t know that I would have been able to access where those jobs are, fix their resumes and write their cover letters,” Holtkamp said.

Carl Sorrel, president of AFSCME Local 1215, added, “From the youngest to the oldest, we give personal, one-on-one service to everyone who walks in. We make sure that, from grammar school through grad school, all their reports and research gets done. Without us, the Chicago Public School system will suffer also.”

Stay-at-home mom Amber Creger said she takes her 2-year-old son to the library three times a week for story time and to meet new friends.

But if the cuts go through, she warned, “There’ll be no more programming for me and my child. It’ll just be a place that warehouses books and computers.”

Asked last week about mounting opposition to the library cuts, Emanuel stressed that closing libraries on Monday and Friday mornings was better than the alternative.

“I was originally presented with the idea of closing eight-to-12 libraries. I rejected that idea,” he said then.

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