“We’re hopeful the city and union reach an agreement,” Ms. Lednicer says.
In his budget address to the city council last fall, Emanuel said he wanted the library service hours cut by 8 hours and proposed doing so on Monday and Friday mornings, a half-day schedule he said would have the least impact on the public. Last week, he opted for a full-day closure on Monday, but called it “avoidable.” He said the reduction in hours was designed to save the city $7 million.
The switch, from two half-day closures to a full day, infuriated some members of the city council who say they were misled by the mayor.
“That’s not what was proposed or voted on. It’s completely contrary. We need to sit down quickly and get back to the original agreement, which was keep those libraries open” every day, Alderman Scott Waguespack told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.
AFSCME Council 31 Spokesperson Anders Lindall rejects Emanuel’s charge that the unions are not cooperating to keep libraries open and adds that the city, under union rules, is not contractually allowed to reduce hours per day.
Mr. Lindall called the Monday closure a contract violation and says the union wants the lost jobs and reduced hours restored. He says the library system already suffered significant budget cuts, reduced hours and layoffs two years ago under former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“We don’t think the people want the union and the city to sit down and figure out the best way to cut access to libraries. The people want an agreement to keep the libraries fully open,” he says.
Cutting hours and shuttering branches is trending nationally, according to data from the ALA. In 2011, 16 percent of all libraries in the US were forced to reduce hours. One year earlier, just 4.5 percent of libraries reduced hours.
Library budgets are also vulnerable. In fiscal year 2011, 60 percent of all US libraries reported flat or decreased operating budgets.