New library chief Brian Bannon is tech savvy but says he's a librarian first

May 30, 2012

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With temps rising and kids itching to get out of school, you probably think of beaches and outdoor basketball. There's another option this summer for students and parents- public libraries. Budget cuts earlier this year forced branches to cut back hours, but starting June 18 branches will increase Monday hours from half to full days. The reduced hours came at a time when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Public Library commissioner Mary Dempsey feuded over lay-offs in the system. The Mayor ultimately softened on some of the cuts, but reduced Monday hours remained. 


These aren't the only changes afloat for the libraries. There's also new leadership. Dempsey, a Richard M. Daley appointee who led the system for 18 years, resigned in January. Emanuel subsequently announced his choice of Brian Bannon to fill the position. Bannon comes from San Francisco's public library, where he was most recently Chief Information Officer. That title made many people conclude that the libraries were in for a tech make-over. In a recent interview with Chicago Tribune's Julia Keller, Bannon scoffed at the idea that he's a gadget guy first. He told Keller: "I'm dubbed 'the technology guy' but I'm really the 'librarian guy.'" Which means Chicago's "One Book, One Chicago" probably won't be "One Kindle, One Chicago" anytime soon (WBEZ is a partner for this fall's selection The Book Thief by Markus Zusak). But, there are some new technological advancements aimed at helping patrons. The library installed Libre Office, a software program that can help with resumes, research papers, presentations and homework.

Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon stops by Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards to discuss his life in libraries, and his plans for Chicago branches.