CPS’ librarian shortage, the fight against drag racing and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Nora Wiltse stands on a sidewalk in front of houses wearing a purple blouse.

Nora Wiltse, the longtime librarian at Coonley Elementary, was laid off last month.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 87 degrees. Tonight will see clear skies with temperatures dipping to 71. Tuesday will be hot and sunny with a high near 91.

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Afternoon Edition
Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

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Top story

In an age of misinformation, why are there so few librarians at Chicago Public Schools?

After eight years as the librarian at Reilly Elementary on the Northwest Side, Brenda Garcia moved to a school in Pilsen, where she grew up and still lives.

When she got to Cooper Dual Language Academy in her Southwest Side neighborhood, she saw clear signs of a school without a librarian for nearly a decade: Some kids didn’t know how to find books that appealed to them, many lacked key computer skills and most weren’t able to decipher online facts from fiction.

“A lot of times, schools don’t understand how much a librarian is bringing to the table because they’ve never had one,” Garcia said.

She and other librarians are worried that’s true of most Chicago Public Schools students at a time when literacy is vital to pandemic recovery, and public misinformation is seemingly at an all-time high.

The nation’s third-largest public school system with 290,000 students in 513 district-operated, non-charter schools, CPS is hovering around 90 schools with full-time librarians, staffing and budget records show. That leaves more than 400 without one — including about 82% of elementary schools.

And as the impact of budget cuts hit schools along racial lines over the past decade, a disparity developed: There are librarians at only 10% of schools where Black students are the largest percentage of the student body, compared with 25% of schools where white kids are, and 21% where Hispanic students are highest, according to analysis done by the Chicago Sun-Times and a Chicago Teachers Union researcher.

The fall of school libraries over the past decade has been precipitous. School library advocates recall a 2012 quote by the Rev. Jesse Jackson as he fought against closures of schools that had been starved of resources.

“There are 160 CPS schools without libraries; 140 of them are south of North Avenue. That’s apartheid,” Jackson said then.

Today, advocates say they’d be thrilled with those numbers.

Nader Issa has more on Chicago Public Schools’ librarian shortage and the impact it’s having on the district’s roughly 290,000 students.

More news you need

  1. The family of Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy paralyzed when he was shot in the Highland Park parade massacre, said today he’s “making some hopeful progress” though he remains in critical condition at Comer Children’s Hospital. In an update on a GoFundMe page for Cooper’s recovery, his family said it remains “very grateful for and humbled by the outpouring of support and well-wishes.”
  2. A West Loop intersection was shut down over the weekend as cars spun tight circles close to a crowd of spectators for nearly an hour, according to authorities. The crowd gathered around 1:45 a.m. Sunday at Clinton and Monroe streets, blocking traffic in all directions as cars did donuts and onlookers cheered.
  3. Chicago police could soon have a new and powerful tool to combat the epidemic of drifting and drag racing on city streets like what happened early Sunday, Fran Spielman reports. An ordinance approved today by a City Council committee would empower cops to impound vehicles used in such stunts, even when the vehicle’s owner isn’t present.
  4. In other policing news, a Watchdogs investigative report we published last Friday found that the department’s arrest rate had fallen to an at least 20-year low of 12% despite the city’s ongoing issues with violent crime. Since the arrest rate peaked at 31% of all reported crimes in 2005, it’s dropped steadily as cops track down fewer suspects.
  5. Following a series of delays due to COVID shutdowns, “The Devil Wears Prada” stage musical looks ready to make its grand debut at Nederlander Theatre this week. Before previews begin tomorrow, Mary Houlihan spoke to members of the production about reaching this point after a long three years.
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A bright one

Architectural guide captures Chicago’s beauty and breadth

We’ve all had this experience living in a city that’s so varied and stylish: We walk down a street in Chicago, spy something and say, “What’s that building?”

Or to get more specific, we’re really saying, “That building is beautiful. What’s its story?” Or maybe, “That thing isn’t my cup of tea. But it’s unusual. What’s its story?”

Mr. Google is at the ready for a fast answer. But if you want a deeper dive, a concise consideration of a building’s aesthetics and context, one of the prime sources has been the “AIA Guide to Chicago.” Its fourth edition, the first since 2014, is now out and it is a gem re-polished.


The Chicago skyline as seen from Montrose Harbor in early 2022.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

AIA refers to the American Institute of Architects, which has a Chicago branch. The institute held a convention in Chicago last month and typically issues a new guidebook when it comes back every few years. “I never stop working on it,” said Laurie McGovern Petersen, the book’s editor and a freelance writer who has been involved since the first edition in 1993. “The minute it’s sort of put to bed, at the printer, no more changes, that’s when I start a new folder for the next edition.”

As well she must, because the 648-page book covers almost 2,000 sites.

Learn more about the goals behind AIA’s guide to Chicago architecture.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

Should Chicago give cops more power to go after drag racing in the streets? Why or why not?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: What’s your favorite Chicago museum? Tell us why. Here’s what some of you said...

“Museum of Science & Industry. Iconic train, Christmas program, Black creativity and submarine. Still the best hands on museum for any age.” — Charles W. Johnson

“The Art Institute of Chicago! It is the best art museum in the world, and my favorite part is the Impressionist painting section.” — Pat Jacinto

“The Art Institute. I could live in the Impressionist exhibit for the rest of my life.” — Colleen Gillis

“Our Chicago Art Institute is amazing. One advantage of being a member is that I love just popping in and visiting one gallery or one specific piece of art. Their exhibits are so well curated and most of their lectures offer yet another way to enrich our knowledge of art! Art transforms our world and feeds our souls!” — Rita Hasner

“Museum of Science and Industry. I grew up in Chicago and that museum will always hold a special place in my heart. Lots of wonderful memories.” — Karen Eikoos

“The Chicago History Museum because I actually donated a piece of art, which they now own.” — Juan Ceballos

“The Field Museum because I like to see the mummies.” — Larry Matthews

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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