January 19, 2022

School Libraries in Chicago: “Mayor Rahm’s Grand Experiment: Libraries Without Librarians”

Note: Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. Here’s a video of his remarks.

Update October 4 Video: Library resources needed after budget layoffs (via ABC 7 Chicago)

“If we want to have children career college ready, we need resources and we need them ready to do research and the person that provides those research skills ultimately is the school librarian,” CTU’s Kathy Murray.

Michael Saelens was the librarian at Lowell Elementary School. He was laid off and explains librarians do more than check out books.

“How to use the data bases, how to use the Internet, that sort of thing. That’s a big part of the job right there. How to avoid just going to Google and Wikipedia,” Saelens said.


From the Reader:

As we all know, Mayor Emanuel came to Walter Payton high school last month to announce his latest big idea for public education.

Standing in front of a bookshelf in the library, he announced he’d magically discovered $17 million to build an annex to Payton, enabling the north side school to add 400 extra students in the coming years. But what the mayor neglected to mention is that the library in which he was staging that very press conference had no librarian because of his budget cuts.


It’s not quite clear what Mayor Emanuel has against libraries. In his first budget he proposed to cut their hours at neighborhood branches. In March, his minions tried to yank Persepolis off the shelves at school libraries, over the protests of the librarians.

Maybe he’s on to something. Perhaps books, libraries and librarians are as obsolete as my old flip phone.

For another perspective, I called a high school librarian, who told me: “Good librarians do more than check out books. They build the library’s collection. They decide what books to purchase. Additionally, they teach students how to do research. That might be their most important function. They teach people how to be critical thinkers.”

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.