Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Whats Happening With the Whitney Young Library

Our new mayor Rahm Emmanuel has decided that the Chicago Public Library is expendable , he has proposed closing some libraries and has reduced the hours they are open. In 2008 , the City of Chicago Council approved the overhaul of the Whitney Young Library, at 79th King Drive, that served the Chatham, Park Manor, Avalon Park, Chesterfield and West Chatham communities. 

The Whitney Young Library was a library surrounded by controversy from day one. The community led by members of the Chatham Avalon Community Council(CAPCC) picketed the construction site in 1969 because of a lack of African American construction workers present on the site and later because the the building was so shabbily built it needed major repairs that the Chicago Public Library refused to do. 

Since the approval of the remodeling of Whitney Young library, the Chicago Public Library has opened up new branches in Avalon Park, Greater Grand Crossing/Park Manor communities. The Whitney Young Library stood as an unfunded plan because the community or rather some residents felt the initial proposed library was woefully insufficient. In April 2010, I wrote the following post for the Sixth Ward Blog The post is here http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=...

The debate about the Whitney Young library seems to continue for no reason except that some individuals in this community have bruised egos. The Chicago Public library commissioner Mary Dempsey reiterated her position that the Whitney Young Library will be a single story building with a two story facade that will be the same square footage as the two story building. She has stated that based on the economy at the time that she did not have the resources to staff a two floor building. She pointed to the Beverly, Mount Greenwood, and West Pullman branches are all built on this model and are functioning well for those communities. It was reported on the CAPCC blog(unverified) that members of CAPCC were insisting that the CPL build a two story building only because the Humbolt Park/Wicker Pak branch is two story and their ad hoc committee decided that the Whitney Young branch should be based on that model. The problem with this thought process was that it lacked any meaningful and documented facts. The facts are as follows: There is no substantiated facts that circulation has increased to justify a two story facility The CPL did not commission any community based organization to solicit community response The Chatham community has six library facilities within a 5 mile radius to frequent 
Auburn Park - 76th Racine 
Avalon Park - 81st Stony Island 
Woodson Regional - 95th Halsted 
Grand Crossing- 73rd South Chicago
Kennedy King College- 64th halsted (no book checkout) 
Chicago State University - 95th King (no book checkout) 

These are the facts as well as several former CPL employees who are also Chatham residents have voiced their disapproval because of the incompetence of the current staff and safety issues.

Fast forward to October 2010, the Whitney Young Library was still in limbo. In May of 2010, it was found that the additional land purchased for the library needed environmental remediation and there had been no monies allotted for this project. The Public Building Commission applied for and was granted funds to complete the project by the US EPA. At a community organization meeting meeting the same argument about the what kind of building would be built came up. The argument about the Wicker Park/Bucktown branch (http://www.pbcchicago.com/content/projec...). The facts are the formerly proposed was a 16,500 square feet, 1.5 story building. This was the same model that was being used in Bridgeport and one other community. All the other issues brought up in April 2010 were the same.

Now in 2014, under a new mayor and new library commissioner the proposal has changed. A recent review of the Public Building Commission's websitehttp://pbcchicago.com/content/projects/p... states that the existing building along with its myriad of problems is not scheduled to be torn down but be a part of the new proposed site. The PBC is proposing building an addition on to the building to achieve the 16,500 sq ft. Per a conversation with Alderman Sawyer, he refused to accept this proposal and has invited the PBC/Library Commissioner to come out and explain to the community why the change in plans.

I'm all for a brand new building but not stuck on a two story building. Today as in yesterday the library primary mission is to educate while our libraries have been turned into daycares, community rooms and everything else we cannot forget the primary mission. In light o the fact that libraries have been taken out of the elementary schools, high schools have cut funding for libraries, I'm more interested in the library having the best WIFI, desktops computers, tablets, e-readers and resources for educators and professional researchers than meeting rooms for people to look out the window and see the Dan Ryan.
So my question is if we get a new library, does form (2 story)overrule functionality? But the big question is did we blow the opportunity with unnecessary conflicts?

In addition, we need to focus on an immediate problem and figure out why with the number of libraries that serve our community why do we have failing elementary and high schools. What do you think?

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