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Seeking Bigger Library, Montclare Residents 'Check Out' Hundreds of Books

By DNAinfo Staff on April 2, 2013 7:43am

CHICAGO — Residents in the Montclare neighborhood aren't quiet about their need for a full-fledged library branch.

About 100 patrons visited the tiny Galewood-Mont Clare branch of the Chicago Public Library Monday, with plans to check out dozens of books and leave the shelves bare.

Monday's event was aimed at increasing circulation at the branch and showing both the surrounding community and the city's central library office that the neighborhood needs a larger and permanent library, organizers said.

"We are doing this to galvanize the community," said Neal Wankoff, a member of the Galewood Residents Organization. "We're doing this to make our case for a new library."

Proponents of a new branch say the current location lacks basic library services, including computers and wireless Internet access.

The original neighborhood branch was at Grand and Sayre avenues until July 2010 when the landlord's financial woes forced it to move out.

That landlord owed the city $70,000 in property taxes and fees, which disqualified it from doing any business with the city, according to Ald. Nick Spasato (36th).

The city moved to its current location in the Rutherford-Sayre Park Fieldhouse shortly after, a location meant to be temporary.

In all, 251 people checked out at least one item from the branch Monday, Wankoff said, many of whom met the library's limit of checking out 30 books at a time.

In February, 662 materials were checked out of the branch, the lowest of all open branches, according to library data. Downtown's Harold Washington Library Center had more than 67,600 checkouts the same month.

"We aren't doing this to bash the library or anything," said Spasato, who checked out 30 books Monday with no plans to read them. "That library in the park is a joke. The neighborhood is a library desert."

Library officials say the library system has wanted to find a permanent site for a branch in the neighborhood, even going as so far as identifying a location in 2011 two blocks away from the old site.

That plan fell through.

"It was unfortunate that the old branch had to close back in 2010," said Patrick Molloy, the library's director of government and public affairs. "We use that location at the park district as something still in the community. We are always looking for new opportunities, but we haven't been able to come up with anything."