Darryl Grant’s after-lunch tradition was to browse and read at the Chicago Public Library’s Merlo branch until the elevator broke down in late April.
The 67-year-old Edgewater resident no longer visits the Belmont Avenue Library in Lake View due to difficulty climbing the steep staircase to the adult section.
“It’s just not me. There are other seniors and people with disabilities who cannot access the second floor,” Grant said. “We are looking at a real justice problem here. A public library is paid for with taxpayers’ money and it is a resource that everyone should use. But it won’t be a good resource if not everyone can use it.
Grant began frequenting other branches of the library, all at least a mile away, and he saw other seniors who frequented the Merlo branch.
Deborah Liebow, 63, of Lake View, has had 12 knee surgeries and also struggles with stairs.
“There were a few times where I wanted to go upstairs to browse, and I couldn’t because I couldn’t use the elevator,” Liebow said. “I just wish they fixed it faster.”
She now visits the Harold Washington Library Center in the Loop.
“There are a lot of elevators, so it’s much more accessible there,” Liebow said.
Merlo branch manager Michael Conlon referred all questions to the main office of the Chicago Public Library.
“The Chicago Public Library remains committed to creating respectful, safe and welcoming spaces that invite personal growth and create stronger, more connected communities,” said Patrick Molloy, director of government and public affairs for the library system.
A new set of doors and a transformer will be installed by August 6, according to Molloy.
The long-term elevator repair has also been added to the library’s 2021 capital plan. This project will include the replacement of the elevator controls.
To address the immediate problem, Merlo Library recently designated a few computers on the first floor for the elderly and disabled. If a visitor wants a book on the second floor, they can ask a librarian to get it for them.
A sign on the elevator also lists the addresses of nearby libraries with adult computers and books available on the first floor, including the Lincoln Belmont, Lincoln Park, and Uptown branches, over a mile away.
“If you’re in a wheelchair or have trouble climbing stairs, you won’t be able to access anything on the second floor, where most things are,” said Allison Bode, 32. Resident of Lake View. “It’s just a shame it’s been broken for so long.”