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Chicago Public Libraries to close 61 locations this weekend amid mounting COVID-19 concerns

All libraries will be closed Sunday and then just 20 locations reopening Monday with scaled-back hours.

Patrons inside the Chicago Public Library branch in Chinatown.
Chicago Public Libraries announced that it will scale down to just 20 locations offering reduced hours as concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak have heightened.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

Sixty-one Chicago Public Library locations will close this weekend as the city scales back its offering of services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chicago libraries serve as social safety nets for our communities — where our young people become lifelong learners and technology centers connect our residents to the world,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “Although some libraries will close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we know residents and neighborhoods will continue to need access to the resources they provide.”

All libraries will be closed Sunday, and then just 20 locations will reopen Monday but with scaled-back hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Just three libraries — the Harold Washington Library Center, Sulzer Regional and Woodson Regional — will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1–5 p.m.

“Libraries play a crucial role as a safety net in communities and provide trusted and reliable information, particularly in times of crisis,” said CPL Commissioner Andrea Telli. “To ensure Chicagoans in dire need are still able to rely on libraries for basic services, we will continue to provide limited library services in strategic locations spread across the city.”

Public computers will be regularly sanitized and have been moved further apart to ensure “social distancing,” the recommended practice of staying at least six feet apart from others to avoid passing COVID-19.

Each library will also determine a maximum capacity of visitors to remain consistent with Chicago Department of Public Health guidelines.

“We are confident that CPL can provide these services in a way that is safe and sanitary for library employees and patrons alike,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Alison Arwady. “Still, we continue to urge Chicagoans to stay home unless they absolutely must go out so that we can continue to work to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

The closures come after Chicago library employees on Tuesday accused Lightfoot and her hand-picked Library Commissioner Andrea Telli of being “careless” by keeping Chicago Public Libraries open.

In an emailed statement, Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, the union representing roughly 900 library employees, called for all 81 of its libraries to be closed down.

Lynch said the “vital role that our city’s public libraries play” should be “balanced against the urgent need to protect the health and well-being of library patrons and employees.”

“The benefits of keeping even a reduced number of libraries open cannot justify the risks involved at a time when both the governor and mayor have stressed the urgency of preventing community transmission to slow this pandemic,” Lynch said.

The following libraries will remain open:

  • Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.;
  • Sulzer Regional, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.;
  • Woodson Regional, 9525 S. Halsted St.;
  • Edgewater, 6000 N. Broadway;
  • Lincoln Belmont, 1659 W. Melrose St.;
  • Albany Park, 3401 W. Foster Ave.;
  • Roden, 6083 N. Northwest Highway;
  • West Belmont, 3104 N. Narragansett Ave.;
  • Humboldt Park, 1605 N. Troy St.;
  • Austin, 5615 W. Race Ave.;
  • Douglass, 3353 W. 13th St.;
  • Lozano, 1805 S. Loomis St.;
  • King, 3436 S. King Drive;
  • Brighton Park, 4314 S. Archer Ave.;
  • West Lawn, 4020 W. 63rd St.;
  • Thurgood Marshall, 7506 S. Racine Ave.;
  • Whitney Young, 415 E. 79th St.;
  • South Chicago, 9055 S. Houston Ave.;
  • West Pullman, 830 W. 119th St.; and
  • Vodak-East Side, 3710 E. 106th St.

Contributing: Fran Spielman