"Chicago really knows how to turn out for a library opening," said Chicago Public Library commissioner Brian Bannon.
Bannon, along with Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel's wife Amy Rule, and other officials, cut the ribbon to officially open the $13.7 million, two-story facility after two years of construction.
The Edgewater expansion had been on the books for a while, and the branch wasn't one of the libraries that could have been closed amid budget slashing as the mayor prepared his first budget. The proposed $11 million in cuts drew widespread criticism, and some funds were eventually added back into the library system's budget.
"The kids of our community deserve this. The seniors, the job seekers, our neighborhood deserves this," Osterman said before a standing-room only crowd on the library's second floor. "This is more than just a library."
The previous Edgewater library had one of the highest check-out rates in the city, Bannon said. Now, the 16,300-foot, two-story library at 6000 N. Broadway St. has more than $500,000 in additional materials for check-out.
The library also gained 44 new computers, growing from 10 to 54, and has many more study spaces and meeting rooms, said Erin Lavin Cabonargi, executive director for the Public Building Commission.
Rule praised the addition of a librarian who focuses on teen-specific programming.
"As a mother of teenagers, I'm particularly appreciative of the separate teen lounge and teen librarian," she said.
The library also seeks to achieve certification as an energy-efficient, environment-friendly building from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Edgewater resident Estelle Martin, 56, was excited to be able to use public computers again without traveling to other neighborhoods.
"The library has become one of the most important institutions in my life," she said. "Not having a computer at home...it's essential."
Shahnaaz Khan, 35, sat reading a Dora the Explorer book to her 5-year-old daughter in the busy library.
Waiting for two years was hard, but worth it, Khan said.
"We got frustrated, depressed, it was so long," she said. "The opening has made me so happy."
The library's construction was mostly funded through a city bond, and about $1.13 million came from from the Hollywood-Sheridan tax increment financing district.