The Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library on California just north of Devon opened in January, 1962. A week ago -- January, 2018 -- a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new branch library at the corner of Pratt and Western. I was pleased to be invited by Alderman Debra Silverstein to attend the ceremony, but was unable to do so because Beverly and I were in Israel for our eldest granddaughter’s wedding.
To keep up with changing technology and community needs, a lot has changed in libraries in the last 56 years. Once a source for books, journals and magazines with access to collections through a card catalogue, today’s libraries have been transformed by online catalogues, computers, audio/visual materials and state-of-the-art programming. Libraries are now a location for collaborative study. A gathering point for the community.
In a year we will have a bigger, better library to serve the needs and enrich the lives of the residents of West Rogers Park.
Projects such as this don’t come about easily. Years of groundwork by Alderman Silverstein with city officials. Over 2,000 signed petitions achieved during a two-year advocacy effort by LEARN/WRP, a broad-based volunteer coalition headed by local resident Tony Martinez, a senior community-development professional. A creative funding partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, which will build 44 senior adult-housing units above the library.
Nothing of this magnitude happens without the support and advocacy of the Alderman. And the Alderman is able to make the best case for our community when an active and articulate constituency speaks up. LEARN helped make that happen.
I am proud that JCCWRP was a founding partner of the LEARN coalition. We advocated for our diverse community to be better served. We have established relationships that cross ethnic, religious and racial lines.
The work of LEARN will continue as the new library is built. And the potential for LEARN to address evolving community needs will stand as a challenge and an opportunity to its members in the days and years ahead.
Thank you Tony Martinez for your leadership of LEARN and for strengthening the case for West Rogers Park. And thank you Alderman Silverstein for bringing this dream to fruition.