ROGERS PARK — Loyola Park’s field house has long been a place for Rogers Park kids to safely hang out and play sports. Now, neighborhood kids can add reading to the list of available activities at the park.
A storage room on the second floor of the Loyola Park field house, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave., has been converted into a children’s library. The library was unveiled Sunday, during the park’s Black History Month celebration, which had a literacy theme this year.
Loyola Park’s field house was once slated to get a children’s library room, but the project didn’t come to fruition, said Jocelyn Gerard, a member of the Loyola Park Advisory Council. So when council came up with the literacy theme for this year’s Black History Month event, they decided to take on the library project themselves.
“There are kids who maybe don’t want to play sports, but they spend time at the field house,” Gerard said. “That’s very common. We thought it would be good for them to have a quiet space.”
Led by advisory council President Roseanna Magada, a group of volunteers made the library room happen in about three weeks, Gerard said. A muralist came to paint a colorful landscape on the wall, while others set up decorations, arranged furniture and sorted books.
The library, which is for kids 10 and under, was made possible solely by donations. Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) donated furniture and many others donated books and children’s items, Gerard said.
“People were coming out of the woodwork” to help, Gerard said. “One thing I say about Rogers Park, people are very generous around here. They’re very philanthropic. It’s really cool.”
The volunteer effort to construct the children’s library was so successful, the Loyola Park Advisory Council is working to build a tween/teen library in a neighboring room in the field house, Gerard said.
The idea is to not only have a place for older kids to read and study, but to also access technology they might not otherwise have, Gerard said. Computers are being sought for the room, and a neighbor has even reached out about donating a 3-D printer, she said.
One idea is for local high school artists to paint the new library’s walls. A suggestion box will be available near the field house office’s for residents to suggest ideas for the library, Gerard said.
“We want something for the older kids, and we really like to idea of getting technology in front of them,” she said.
Neighborhood kids got their first chance to try out the new library on Sunday, when Loyola Park held its 18th annual Black History Celebration. This year’s event was done in collaboration with Young, Black & Lit, a nonprofit that seeks to promote the reading of books that “center, reflect and affirm Black children,” according to the group.
The event was a success, Gerard said, and shows how vital Loyola Park’s field house is to the community. Her group’s goal is to make the facility as useful to their neighbors as possible.
“That’s a main neighborhood hub,” Gerard said. “The park is a happy place for everybody. That’s what we want to tap into.”
Anyone interested in donating to the new libraries should reach out to the park advisory council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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