Chicago closing 61 libraries due to COVID-19

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CHICAGO — Due to the threat of COVID-19, the City of Chicago is closing 61 libraries after Saturday, but the Harold Washington Library and 19 other locations will remain open.

Like many, library workers fear for their health and demanded a total shutdown.

Warnings signs were put up in a public library warning anyone who is sick to not come in. Inside the buildings, social distancing is being enforced by security and many computers were disconnected to keep people apart.

The regulars who come to the library include homeless Chicagoans like Ian Johnson who hopes the libraries won’t shutdown entirely.

“With everything else closing, it’s very bad for people who have nowhere else to stay,” he said.

That was a factor in the city’s decision to keep 20 public libraries open with drastically reduced services. However, staffing could become an issue.

According to the main employee union, many workers are afraid to come in, and one is self quarantined with symptoms.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called Chicago libraries an essential part of a social safety net.

The union understands but points out that public library systems are already closed in other major cities, including New York City and Los Angeles.

A spokesman for the Chicago Public Library system says for now, the pared down plan with just 20 open libraries will start on start Monday.But like all else in an unprecedented situation, things could evolve in the days ahead.

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