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Back of the Yards

City Leaders Aim To Pick Site For New Back Of The Yards Library By October: ‘Our Kids Deserve The Best Library In The World’

Residents have questioned for years why their neighborhood doesn't have its own freestanding public library.

Back of the Yards Branch library opened at Back of the Yards College Prep Academy in 2013.
Back of the Yards Branch/ Chicago Public Library
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BACK OF THE YARDS — City officials are still on the hunt for a suitable site for Back of the Yards’ first standalone library branch, but they hope to narrow down an option in the next few months.

The Chicago Public Library is working with the city’s Department of Planning and Development to build a library in Back of the Yards through the Invest South/West initiative.

The neighborhood’s public library branch has resided inside Back of the Yards College Prep Academy, 2111 W. 47th St., since the school opened in 2013. It was touted as a major upgrade, since the previous public library had been inside a strip mall on Damen Avenue.

However, residents have questioned for years why their neighborhood doesn’t have its own freestanding, quality public library branch. Parents have said sharing the library with the high school makes access difficult — especially during the day during the school year — and it doesn’t meet the needs of the community.

Southwest Side parents and local leaders have advocated for a separate library building for years. In 2020, state Rep. Theresa Mah secured $15 million in state funding for capital projects to fund the library, but officials with the project said they haven’t been able to find the right location.

During a community meeting with city officials Tuesday, several neighbors said it was important to have the library in a central location — possibly near 47th Street and Ashland Avenue — and for the interior of the library to be multi-use.

Patrick Molloy, director of government and public affairs with the library, said project officials have looked at several sites but have had to pass because none met the city’s requirements. He said the space would ideally be 16,000 square feet, have parking, be near public transit and not disrupt existing businesses.

Officials hope to pick a site by October, they said.

Resident Consuelo Martinez, who’s been involved in organizing for a library, said the space needs to be culturally relevant for the neighborhood and offer the types of services young people and adults can take advantage of.

Martinez also said the library should be well-designed and maintained so it lasts for future generations.

“This community is not rich. This community is low-resourced,” she said. “We deserve this.”

Another neighbor said she wants the library to match what she’s seeing in photos of libraries in other neighborhoods: large, spacious buildings with lots of natural light.

“Our kids deserve the best library in the world,” she said.

Nolan Zaroff, with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said there will be another meeting in September for neighbors to give input on the types of services and programs the library should offer and to receive updates about the location search.

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