Jefferson Park Library to be closed for 8 months during renovation
by BRIAN NADIG
The Jefferson Park Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave., will be closed starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, through the early fall for an approximately $1.5 million renovation of the 49-year-old facility.
Plans for the project were unveiled at a Jan. 10 community meeting hosted by Alderman John Arena (45th). The project is being funded with tax increment financing funds.
Chicago Public Library deputy commissioner Andrea Telli said that the project will transform the library from the traditional cafeteria-style rows of tables and chairs to a variety of new working spaces which are more flexible and can be used for multiple purposes.
Renderings of the planned improvements were not available, but based on recent improvements at other libraries, the designated teen area could have large bean bags, tables with stools, gaming consoles and a 3D printer, Telli said. The branch also will have bookshelves on wheels to allow for better flexibility in the setup of the library for community events and other activities, she said.
When the library reopens in the fall, its existing staff will be returning, and there are plans for three additional staff members, Telli said.
While the estimated eight-month closing of the library will be “a hardship,” setting up a temporary library at a nearby location is not a good option based on experiences with other branch closings, Telli said. “We found interim spaces really don’t work because they don’t have all the services,” she said.
“I encourage you to go out and use the libraries around us,” Arena said, noting that the new Independence Library at 4202 N. Elston Ave. will soon be opening.
Arena said that the idea for the Jefferson Park branch project was fueled from a smaller infrastructure project which included recent improvements to the building’s exterior and which were funded through a $175,000 allocation from the the ward’s discretionary budget. Arena holds a community vote to help determine the ward’s annual $1.3 million discretionary budget as part of the participatory budgeting process.
Arena said that the process often leads to funding allocations from additional sources so that projects can be expanded and become more comprehensive.
Resident Mitch Kmiec said that the participatory budget committee began looking at possible improvements to the library after it received a note that from someone saying that “the Jeff Park Library needs a little love.”
The Jefferson Park branch opened in 1904 and has been housed in about 10 different locations. The current facility opened in 1970, and some residents at the meeting said that a descendant of Thomas Jefferson attended the grand opening.