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2013 Year in Review: Chicago Public Library, Part III

On September 7, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Library Commissioner Brian Bannon, and local officials dedicated the new Back of the Yards Branch of the Chicago Public Library, located at 2111 West 47th Street, adjacent to the new Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School. The new, 8,300-square-foot library branch, the Chicago Public Building Commission (P.B.C.) co-located on the high school campus, provides the Back of the Yards neighborhood in the New City community area with its first full-service library since the previous rental location closed in 2011.

“Libraries and schools have a strong connection as places of learning and community anchors. This innovative approach provides the community with a library that they’ve eagerly anticipated, and students the critical resources needed to reach their full potential in the digital age,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This project demonstrates the city’s continuing commitment and investment in our children and our neighborhoods, while also reducing the financial burden for taxpayers.”

“This location allows us to offer Back of the Yards residents a full-service 21st century library in order to better serve the needs of patrons in this community,” said Library Commissioner Bannon. “We know how much this community loves its library, and the branch will offer more access to technology and a focus on the teens in the neighborhood and a media lab for technology training. We are happy to be able to open this in time for the beginning of the school year.”

On September 6, 2013, Mayor Emanuel, Commissioner Bannon, 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis, and Chinatown residents unveiled the design concept for the new Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library, scheduled to open in 2015 and replace a rental branch that serves 21,000 patrons a month. “This beautiful, modern design is a model for what a neighborhood library should be, and it is the latest success story in the new chapter we are writing at Chicago Public Library,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Our libraries are anchors in our communities, and that is why we made a $66 million investment to build, expand and modernize our library system.”

Under the first-ever Design/Build Process for a neighborhood branch library, the Chicago Public Library (C.P.L.) and the Chicago PBC selected Wight/SOM to design a library building that reflects the history and culture of Chinatown, while providing a state-of-the-art library space for residents. “This new library continues to bring world-class design to Chicago’s neighborhoods while creating a community-specific building,” said Commissioner Bannon. “This new branch will serve as a gateway to Chinatown, linking the old with the new, and provide a building that serves the modern Chinese immigrant as well as the longtime Chicago resident.”

“The new Chinatown Branch library represents a new opportunity to further invigorate the Chinatown community,” said Alderman Solis. “It will create a new civic, educational and social hub for Chinatown, providing a place of discovery and learning in our new digital age.”

Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Bannon announced on august 29, 2013 that a record-breaking 71,260 children and young teens read 2,100,000 books as part of Rahm’s Readers, the CPL’s Summer Learning Challenge, whereas in the summer of 2012, 60,232 children read more than 1,500,000 books. This result means that Mayor Emanuel, Commissioner Bannon, and CPL Board member and former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije would be getting wet this winter, as in July they had challenged the children of Chicago that if they read more than 2,000,000 books as part of Rahm’s Readers, the trio would jump in Lake Michigan in March as part of the Polar Plunge that benefits the Special Olympics.

The 2013 summer program was entitled “Full STEAM Ahead” and focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math skills through programs offered at all CPL locations. Program partners the Museum of Science and Industry, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Goodman Theatre offered programs at the CPL and in their locations, and children were able to earn electronic badges in recognition of engaging in a myriad of activities related to those topics.

“Studies show that children lose up to three months of math and science learning during the summer, so including those areas into an already successful reading program made perfect sense,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Library and Rahm’s Readers provided children with a safe, fun activity during the long break between school years while also creating a solid educational foundation for their return to studies in the fall.”

New in 2013, the CPL also asked children to record how many minutes they spent reading, as this encourages children to take the time to try books that might be a bit more difficult, while still giving them credit for the time spent doing so. The participating children spent 56,700,000 minutes reading in the eight-week program—equal to 100 years spent reading.

On July 15, 2013, as part of Chicago’s New Americans Initiative, Mayor Emanuel announced a partnership between the Mayor’s Office and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.) to host citizenship workshops and disseminate information on the naturalization process at select CPL locations. Known as “Citizenship Corners” and “Citizenship Hubs,” the program will be one of the first of its kind and most comprehensive in the nation and a crucial resource to help residents obtain resources and guidance on the citizenship process.

“We want to make sure our residents have the resources they need to become naturalized citizens,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By providing free assistance to residents in their native language, we can point them in the right direction so that they can continue on their path to citizenship and protect them from any risk of consumer fraud. Chicago is a city that was built by immigrants and continues to thrive from the vibrancy of our immigrant population, and we will do everything we can to support immigrants in their quest for citizenship.”

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.), there were 370,000 legal permanent residents eligible to become citizens in the state of Illinois and nearly 200,000 of them lived in the city of Chicago.

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