CITY HALL — The 80 branches of the Chicago Public Library remain insufficiently staffed to meet the needs of library users and community residents, a follow-up audit released Tuesday by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found.
Although an audit released in May 2018 recommended that library officials conduct a system-wide analysis of staffing levels, that recommendation from Ferguson was not followed — nor were any of his other recommendations.
“[The Chicago Public Library] is failing in its mission to support the people of Chicago,” Ferguson said in a statement. “I hope a turn of administration brings a fresh re-examination of the issues raised by the audit.”
A new staffing plan should include “input from library board members, employees and area residents,” according to the follow-up audit.
The library is being led by “upper management that was either unengaged or simply absent,” according to the follow-up audit
The library’s staffing issues began in 2012 when budget cuts proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved by the City Council prompted the elimination of more than 26 percent of the library’s total workforce, including 146 part-time library pages, who were charged with sorting and shelving books, according to the audit.
While some page positions have been restored, the library’s total staffing remains significantly lower than it was in 2011, according to the original audit.
That has meant that clerks and librarians are routinely forced to do tasks “outside their job descriptions and for which they are overqualified,” according to the original audit.
In addition, library officials failed to properly apply their own criteria when determining staffing levels, which is determined by the number of visitors, circulation volume, computer usage level, population and the number of schools in its area, according to the original audit.
Nearly 19 percent of libraries were not staffed properly using those criteria, according to the original audit. In addition, the audit found that Chicago Public Library officials should consider another 10 factors when determining staffing levels, as recommended by the American Library Association.
Because many branches are understaffed, “many positions perform many roles,” a branch manager told investigators, according to the original audit. That results in “personnel spending time on activities that could be done more cost-effectively by employees holding other titles.”
Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s wife, Amy Eshleman, served as an assistant library commissioner under former library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, who resigned to protest the 2012 cuts.
Dempsey and Lightfoot worked together under former Mayor Richard M. Daley to cleanup the city’s Department of Procurement Services in the wake of the hired-truck scandal.
Chicago Public Library spokesman Patrick Malloy said the library “is committed to ensuring each of our branches meets the needs of the surrounding community.”
A librarian has been charged with “evaluat[ing] and manag[ing] current staffing and ensure that the needs of residents are being met,” Molloy said.