Darryl Grant’s after-lunch tradition was to browse and read in the Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library until the elevator broke in late April.
The 67-year-old Edgewater resident no longer visits the Belmont Avenue Library in Lake View due to the difficulty of climbing the steep stairwell 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. “Here we are examining a real problem of justice. A public library is paid for with taxpayer dollars and it is a resource that everyone should use. But it won’t be a good resource if everyone can’t use it.
Grant started going to other branches of the library, all located at least a mile and a half away, and he saw other seniors frequenting the Merlo branch.
Deborah Liebow, 63, of Lake View, has had 12 knee surgeries and is also struggling to climb the stairs.
“There were a few times I wanted to go upstairs to browse, and I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t use the elevator,” Liebow said. “I just wish they would fix it faster.”
She now visits the Harold Washington Library Center in the Loop.
“There are a lot of elevators so it’s a lot more accessible there,” Liebow said.
Merlo branch manager Michael Conlon referred all questions to the main office of the Chicago Public Library. Library officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Merlo Library has recently designated a few computers on the first floor for the elderly and the disabled. If a visitor wants a book on the second floor, they can ask a librarian to provide it.
A sign on the elevator also lists the addresses of nearby libraries with adult computers and books available on the first floor, including Lincoln Belmont, Lincoln Park, and Uptown branches, all over a mile away.
Ald. The office of Tom Tunney (44th) said there was no timetable for the elevator repair. The alderman’s office said the library system is waiting for a new transformer to ensure the elevator has the correct supply voltage until it potentially replaces the entire elevator d. ‘by the end of the year.
Calvin Cottrell, director of community outreach and public safety for the 44th Ward, said assessment teams would gather more information on the scope of the project and the resulting costs over the coming weeks.
“If you are in a wheelchair or have trouble walking up the stairs, you won’t be able to access anything on the second floor, where most things are,” said Allison Bode, 32. Lake View resident. “It’s just too bad it’s been broken for so long.”