Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey has resigned from her position as head of the system after 18 years in the role. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already announced her replacement, tapping Brian Bannon, Chief Information Officer at the San Francisco Public Library.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to expand the library, engage new users and build new services beyond the four walls,” said Bannon in a press release. “The Chicago Public Library is already a national leader in educational media for teens and I look forward to working with the Library staff to build on that great foundation.”
According to the Sun-Times, Dempsey tendered her resignation in November, but it was not made public until now; adding that she was reportedly displeased with the library system accounting for half of the layoffs in the 2012 budget when CPL only accounts for 3 percent of city expenditures, consequentially affecting library service at all hours.
Leaders with AFSCME, the employee union representing library workers, say they hope Dempsey's replacement will work as hard as she did to keep libraries open and operating.
"Commissioner Dempsey worked tirelessly despite budget cuts to strengthen the role of libraries in Chicago," said AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer. "She had great respect for librarians and other staff, she worked constructively with our union, and she knew that branches are essential to education, literacy, culture and community in every neighborhood. We hope her successor will be an advocate for fully restoring branch library hours, staff and programs, and that he will work with library employees and our union to keep improving library services and access for all city residents."
As we reported on Monday, AFSCME wants the city to reverse all CPL hour and staff reductions from the 2012 budget. The union also contends that there have been no recent negotiations on the issue, saying that the city has made sweeping decisions on library hours without the union's consultation.
Meanwhile, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the Chicago City Council Black Caucus; Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the Latino Caucus; and three additional aldermen wrote a letter to Emanuel yesterday that generously praised the Mayor for his Saturday announcement stating that Chicago branch libraries will be open six days a week and would reopen for four hours on Monday afternoons starting next month. The announcement reversed Emanuel's decision from two weeks ago to keep libraries closed all day on Mondays.
"Keeping libraries open six days required your steadfast commitment during difficult negotiations," the letter states. "We are proud that you never compromised on your core conviction: Chicago's kids must come first."
The initial January 5 declaration to close libraries on Mondays was met with anger and bewilderment by some aldermen who thought they agreed to a six-day weekly branch library operating schedule in the 2012 city budget. The budget also called for the approval of AFSCME, which has yet to OK any of the changes made to the library system as of late.