BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport’s Daley Branch Library reopened last week after being closed for nearly nine months of renovations.
Improvements at the 3400 S. Halsted St. branch include new light fixtures, computers and upgraded wiring for internet connectivity.
Branch Manager Jeremy Kitchen said the new computers are much faster than the previous ones and the electrical trench dug as part of the renovations will allow more patrons to charge laptops at the library.
“This really archaic heating unit in the children’s area was removed to open up space,” Kitchen said. “And we got new carpet, new lighting, they redid the washrooms and the break rooms.”
The Richard J. Daley Branch has been serving the former mayor’s Bridgeport neighborhood since being dedicated in 1989. It’s an area Kitchen calls “a quintessential Chicago neighborhood. It’s very diverse and you get all walks of life, people from all parts of the socioeconomic spectrum.”
After closing in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the branch reopened in June 2020. At the end of August 2021, the branch closed again for improvements.
Kitchen said he and his staff are happy to be back at their home branch after working in other branches during the closure. In the lingo of the Chicago Public Library, “detailing” is when a branch’s staff members are reassigned to work at other branches during a closure or other interruption of service at their home branch.
Library staff at Daley were detailed to branches mostly in its district, such as Sherman Park, Hall in Bronzeville and Chinatown, where Kitchen performed managerial duties. He said it was challenging to be away from the home library and what he calls “the best staff in the city”, but he, his supervisor and the Daley branch team checked in every month to see how everyone was doing. “It’s a big change, you know, there’s four of us who’ve been together almost 15 years. You get pretty close.”
Just like the staff, while Daley was closed, its patrons went to other nearby libraries like McKinley Park, Chicago Bee and Canaryville (itself now closed for its own building improvements according to the Chicago Public Library website).
Ivan Chen of Chinatown was happy to be back at the Daley branch to study and he applauded the renovations.
“I’m excited. It’s a great place to study, it’s quiet,” Chen said.
Now that they are back “home,” Daley’s staff are busy putting more than 100 boxes of new books on the shelves for its reopening.
Kitchen is also planning the branch’s summer programming which will focuses on the theme “City of Stories.“
“I’m gonna be doing some programs where writers across the city will be telling their ‘Chicago Stories’ here at the branch,” Kitchen said. He called the prospective series an “open forum for people to share their stories about our city.”
Kitchen estimates that around 30-40 people came through during the first day back. Not long after reopening, he was again fielding questions from patrons about books and being admonished playfully by regulars about the length of the branch closure. After a long discussion with a patron about upcoming events, he said, “This is why I love this job. I like interacting with people, being able to give them access to knowledge and information, that’s the best part.”
If you have a “Chicago Story” you’d like to share at the Richard J. Daley branch this summer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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