Illinois: Mayor Wants to Co-Locate New Chicago Public Library Branches in Public Housing Developments
A concept called “co-location” puts libraries in everything from community centers to high schools as a way to lower building costs and increase the number of library patrons. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to give it a new twist, putting Chicago Public Library branches in eye-catching works of architecture that will also house tenants of the Chicago Housing Authority.
On Friday, Emanuel will join the authority’s CEO, Eugene Jones Jr., and Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon to announce the initiative.
The new libraries would replace existing branches and be of normal size, ranging from 10,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet, Bannon said. They would likely be located on the ground floor of the housing developments and would offer programs targeted to children and families from public housing as well as those living in the surrounding area.
The idea, Bannon said, is to mix uses as well as income groups, lessening the isolation of public housing residents. “We already are a natural convener of a full cross section of the community,” he said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. and Chicago Public Library (CPL) Commissioner Brian Bannon today to announce an interagency partnership that will provide three new mixed-income housing developments with co-located libraries – strengthening communities with affordable housing and community anchors that support life-long learning. In a break from the standard, cookie-cutter designs that are common to government buildings, Mayor Emanuel envisions striking and bold architectural designs for these buildings. As part of the projects, he will call on architectural firms to bid on the work and use their creativity to leave a lasting legacy of public art in neighborhoods across Chicago.
“Chicago will be one of the first cities using this type of partnership between housing and libraries to benefit and beautify our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This model will create spaces everyone can enjoy, and I hope will be the next great civic projects here in Chicago.”
The announcement was made on the site of a planned senior housing building at Pratt and Western avenues that will include a ground floor library. Two other mixed-income housing developments with co-located libraries are also planned for the Near West Side and Irving Park communities. As part of the ongoing redevelopment of the Roosevelt Square community, a new Roosevelt Branch Library is planned near Taylor and Aberdeen streets. A new Independence Branch Library is also planned near Elston Avenue and Pulaski Road.
“By creating a new library and affordable senior housing we are able to meet vital West Ridge community needs,” Alderman Debra Silverstein (50th) said. “I am grateful for the leadership and cooperation of Mayor Emanuel, the CHA and the Chicago Public Library.”
“Brining mixed-income housing and a library together will be a great addition to the 25th ward,” said Alderman Danny Solis (25th). “I look forward to the benefits of this community asset for our residents.”
“I am pleased that these projects will allow CHA to deliver new housing units on the North Side and expand affordable housing opportunities to more communities,” said CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. “We know that housing is vital to our neighborhoods but strong, healthy communities also require community anchors like libraries and CHA is proud to be a partner with CPL as we move forward with this innovative plan.”
For each site, a two-stage design competition will be held to attract top-quality architects who will fully engage the community to produce an architecturally significant and community-inclusive building. Initially a Request for Qualifications will be sent to design firms. From that group, up to three pre-qualified architectural firms will be chosen to develop a conceptual design, budget and schedule. Each firm will receive a stipend for this work. An evaluation committee will review the submissions and select the winning firm.
Once the architects are selected for each project, CHA, CPL and the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development will host a design workshop with the community in which the libraries are located. The two-stage process is expected to get underway by the end of this year and take approximately 10 weeks to complete.
“Libraries play a vital role in making knowledge and learning accessible, as well as offer a common space where the community comes together,” said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon. “Partnering with CHA is an innovative approach that better positions both of us to build a stronger foundation for our communities.”
Jones noted that with this partnership, CHA becomes one of the first public housing agencies in the country to develop co-located housing with other municipal facilities. “By combining key community assets like libraries with housing, we will ensure that affordable housing and services and programs are available to neighborhoods across the city,” Jones said.
The new library facilities will offer programs and spaces for both CHA and area children and families. Each branch will include a built-out early childhood active learning space. School-aged children will have access to the Library’s Teacher in the Library program which offers free small one on one homework assistance. Teens will have access to technology, resources, and classes that inspire exploration, creativity and learning through the YOUmedia program.
In recent years, CPL has increased technology and workforce programs for adults. These new branches will offer computer classes and one-on one coaching to build digital literacy and technology skills for adults and seniors. Staff will be trained to connect job-seekers to best-in-class career services provided by workforce development organizations and educational institutions. The Library will also continue to partner with expert workforce organizations to deliver trainings on additional skills, such as resume writing, interview prep and industry-specific skills. Traditional library programs, such as book clubs for seniors and intergenerational educational and cultural programming will also be available to these communities.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.