LAKEVIEW — The Merlo Library reopened Wednesday after completing a $6 million renovation adding flexible workspaces and a new modern design.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and members of John Merlo’s family outside the library branch, 644 W. Belmont, to reopen the branch for the first time since last year.
“Are libraries really relevant in the digital age?” Lightfoot asked at the library’s rededication ceremony. “Now more than ever, and I knew that as part of our reopening, one of the most important things we could do is bring libraries back online because of the central role and trusted role they play.”
The renovation also bring a new early learning center, YOUmedia digital learning lab and flexible spaces for meetings, community events or study spaces.
The library also expanded its collection with a focus on adding more LGBTQ-related materials.
“We all know libraries are such a great public treasure and have evolved into community centers, so it’s really exciting to be able to walk through these library halls again and open up the library to the world of opportunities it brings back to our neighborhood,” Tunney said.
The Merlo Branch opened on Sept. 14, 1942 and was first refurbished in the late ’80s, according to a press release.
The new renovation removes a glass atrium that was added at the time, allowing people to see the decorative panels above its front entrance from the street, according to Carina Sanchez, executive director of the Public Building Commission.
The renovation also added a new vestibule, monumental stairway and an ADA-accessible ramp so everyone can use the library.
“We were able to do this without completely tearing down and rebuilding the facility,” Sanchez said. “This was due to the high quality of the original design and essentially good bones that allowed us to make repairs to its facade.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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