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Chicago Public Library Head Resigns Amid Ongoing Dispute Over Layoffs, Hours (VIDEO)

First Posted: 01/25/2012 5:15 pm EST Updated: 01/25/2012 5:15 pm EST

The woman at the helm of the Chicago Public Library system for the past 18 years has resigned from her post in the midst of ongoing disputes over staff layoffs and reduced branch library hours.

Mary Dempsey, it was announced Wednesday, will be replaced in March by Brian Bannon, the chief information officer for San Francisco's public library system, the Chicago Tribune reports. She submitted her official letter of resignation in October.

Despite the controversy surrounding Mayor Rahm Emanuel's reduction in library funding that spurred the system's recently reduced hours and staffing, Dempsey has not publicly criticized the mayor as part of her announcement, as she told the Tribune "it was the right time" for her to resign from her post.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Fran Spielman, however, describes that Dempsey, who vastly expanded the library system's reach across Chicago's neighborhoods with the help of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, "met her match in Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was more concerned about cutting spending than he was about preserving library services."

The city's library system, the Sun-Times notes, was initially "singled out" for 50 percent of city layoffs, despite only accounting for three percent of the city's overally spending. Ultimately, the mayor stepped back the cutbacks, but library staffing has still been cut significantly.

The abrupt closing of the city's branch libraries on Mondays earlier this month was met with scorn from many of the city's residents, causing the mayor to announce that the branches would be opened Monday afternoons beginning Feb. 6 thanks to some $2 million in re-allocated city funding, WBEZ reported.

As Fox Chicago reports, however, library employees and their supporters have continued to push for the city's libraries to be re-opened all day on Mondays and for laid-off workers to be reinstated.

Library supporters held "People’s Library Hours" rallies outside three closed neighborhood branches on Monday morning, when the AFSCME, the union representing city library workers, renewed their call for the system to return to a 48-hour work week. As Progress Illinois reports, the union has filed a grievance with the Chicago Public Library over their contention that they weren't consulted regarding the Monday closings.

Protesters at the Little Village branch, who described the libraries as providing "vital services for communities" that have been endangered by the funding reductions chanted, according to WBEZ, "Mayor Emanuel, listen up! Please don't make theses awful cuts!"

Meanwhile, Bannon said CPL was "a national leader in educational media for teens" and said he was looking forward to building on that foundation.

Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr.

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |