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Library advocates conduct informational picket at main library

On Tues. Oct 22, fifteen committed library advocates conducted an information picket, handing out 400 flyers to interested library patrons and visitors, in front of Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. for the purpose of informing visiting authors and their audiences that Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey is using Chicago Book Month as a PUBLIC RELATIONS COVER all the while continuing to downsize the central library's book collections and get rid of most of its reference staff. (Writer Thomas Steinbeck, son of the great American novelist John Steinbeck, was appearing at the library to read from his latest book during Chicago Book Month.) (article 2)
Recently dozens of veteran librarians have either been forced into early retirement or transferred from the main library (in violation of their union contract) to branches where their knowledge and experience will be grossly underutilized. Beneath the glitzy facade of Chicago Book Month is the grinding everyday reality of a library system which despite its physical size has always been hard-pressed to provide enough books in a wide range of subject areas to its various user populations (including most of Chicago's public and private students at all levels). Already inadequate to Chicago's needs by the last decade of the 20th century, the book budget has not been increased in the eight years of Commissioner Dempsey's reign, even as book prices have continued to skyrocket, and in 2002 the book budget was further slashed by 20 percent to pay for more computer databases.

From the accelerated construction of cookie-cutter branches serving mainly as Internet kiosks to anchor neighborhood gentrification, Dempsey's Internet mania now extends to turning the main library itself into a GLORIFIED INTERNET KIOSK -- in addition to its regular function as an architectural magnet for glitzy public events. Where is the critical realization that, despite its many useful functions, the Internet is NOT a complete substitute for good, in-depth book collections and reference staffs who know how to build and access them? But now, under the "Book Mayor," such collections will give way to the installation of more Internet terminals and a downsized reference staff whose main function will be to help the public log-on...

On behalf of serious readers, hard-pressed students, occasional scholars, unrepentant book-lovers and thinking citizens, we demand---

BRING BACK OUR REFERENCE LIBRARIANS AND SUBJECT SPECIALISTS!

INCREASE THE BOOK BUDGET AND LIBRARY STAFF SYSTEM WIDE!

WE WANT INTERNET AND LIBRARIES TOO!

For more information call Librarians & Patrons Public Alert at 773-244-1480 or send e-mail to unionneighbor (at) yahoo.com.

"Reading Proust on a computer is like looking at Normandy through a bombsight."
 
 

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