WEST RIDGE — Even before Chicago property tax owners start paying the $18 million property tax hike included in the city’s 2020 budget, nine Chicago Public Library branches will open on Sunday afternoons, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday.
The Portage-Cragin, Northtown, Dunning, Little Italy, Toman, Hall, Whitney Young, West Pullman and Chicago Lawn branches will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. starting Sunday, officials said.
Three West Side library branches — Douglass, Richard M. Daley and Austin — are already open on Sunday afternoons during the ongoing renovation of the Legler Regional Library, which is scheduled to open next year. The Harold Washington Library Center, as well as the Sulzer Regional and Woodson Regional libraries, are also open on Sunday afternoons.
“For Chicago to thrive, we need all of our residents — especially our young people — connected to rich, engaging and safe environments where they can be empowered to explore their passions and develop their talents,” Lightfoot said. “Our libraries are critical to helping us achieve that vision.”
Lightfoot announced the start of library hours at the Northtown branch alongside Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), who had been pushing for the restoration of Sunday library hours. West Ridge is home to many Orthodox Jews who observe the Sabbath on Saturday.
The library plans to hire 177 staff members to add Sunday hours at all 81 branch libraries, said Commissioner Andrea Telli.
While 11 aldermen voted against Lightfoot’s 2020 spending plan, five other aldermen — Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd); Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st); Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), Ald. Michele Smith and Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) — voted against the city’s 2020 property tax levy, which included the tax hike for the Sunday library hours.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who voted against the whole budget package, was the lone aldermen to speak out against Lightfoot’s plan to reopen the libraries on Sunday afternoon, saying that the money would be better spent to reopen city-funded mental health clinics.
An audit released in May 2018 by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended that library officials conduct a system-wide analysis of staffing levels after he determined the branches were insufficiently staffed to meet the needs of library users and community residents after cuts imposed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011.