Message from Montie

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Chicago Public Libraries decrease hours in 2010

Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at

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Harold Washington Library

 My parents had a fairly reasonable library at home, but I recall many nights of sitting in my local library to study for high school projects. Sometimes I'd be with a study group, but most of the time I was alone and my father would usually pick me up later if I didn't want to walk home. On the ride home from the library with my father, I remembered how many countless library walks we'd take just to go read for fun. And then I found out tonight that Chicago public libraries are cutting their hours.


According to the Chicago Tribune, 76 branches of the Chicago Public Library system will have reduced hours from Monday through Thursday, opening an hour later (10 a.m.) and closing an hour earlier (8 p.m.). There will be no hour changes to the Harold Washington Library located in downtown Chicago, the Sulzer library on the north side of Chicago or the Carter G. Woodson library on the south side of Chicago. The new hours won't take effect until January 2, 2010.


Harold Washington Library roof

This decision is strange, considering the current economic hardships Americans are facing. I am more likely to check out an audio book at a library before purchasing it, and every blue moon I'll read a magazine at a library. But it's the books that I really need to get to (specifically reference books) that make me flock to a library. And many times I use them for news assignments, especially if there's a historical background. Yes, we have Google and Yahoo search engines, but sometimes I need a more credible source, and I can get those at the library.


So while it's not like the library is closing altogether, what's the problem? My issue is that I have worked many late nights and just about sped to the library before it closed at 9 p.m. When you work full time and drive back and forth to work, it's extremely difficult to read a book within the three-week period that a library loan person is given, and now hours are cut too. And even as a freelancer, I'm hightailing it to interviews, driving to events and trying to finish up last-minute articles, so I still don't have the time I'd like to visit libraries, not just to check out books but more importantly for reference titles. With the library hour cut, that makes time even tighter, and this also cuts down time for those who don't own computers and use the library for Internet purposes. It's annoying enough to have to visit a library that has a list of people who want to use the Internet, but now you're competing for more time too. And Chicago Public Libraries won't let you reserve a spot on their Internet-ready computers from home, unlike checking out a book, so you may as well get comfortable. I had 13 viruses on my laptop last month and had to go without a computer for four days. What a pain it was to have to wait to use the library computers, but now the time slots are even tighter. What's next? Cutting down the amount of time an Internet user can use CPL computers?


With people cutting back on spending, they tend to spend more time browsing library bookshelves instead of bookstores, renting films at libraries versus paying money for high rental fees (remember Hollywood Video closed 500 locations and the University of Chicago bought the Hyde Park branch?) and checking out magazines in the library versus buying them, especially older versions. I don't recall ever buying an archived magazine when I could go to the library to see if I could check the article out for free.


I'm hoping this change in 2010 is temporary, and if/when the economy changes, so will the hours. We're at a point where Chicago Public Schools aren't even teaching long division or handwriting because it's not on a standardized test. Kids need to be able to be as close to books as possible and for as long a time as they possibly can, plus this is a safe place to avoid hanging out on the streets getting into trouble. We definitely have enough trouble going on around CPS schools.



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Rebecca said:

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I totally agree with what was stated in this article. I too, feel more people would be using the library now with $$ being tight for everyone. Also, just this week I rushed to the library at 8:30p when I got out of class, to check something out (which is when I saw the sign about the changing hours). Now they'll be closing at 6p & 8p, plus they won't be open on Sundays at all? I really appreciated & utilized the ability to go to the library until 9pm. I hope this isn't permanent.

Message from Montie said:


Hi Rebecca,
Thanks for your comment. Most of the libraries by me aren't open on Sundays anyway so that wasn't so bad for me. The hours though? Yes indeed.

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