ALBANY PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel arrived Friday afternoon to shovel a bit of ceremonial dirt at the official groundbreaking of the new $15 million, 16,300-square-foot Albany Park Library at 5150 N. Kimball Ave.
With temperatures registering 108 degrees on a nearby bank's LED display, the mayor's appearance was brief. Along with other officials, including Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), State Rep. John D'Amico (D-15), State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-20) and Library Commissioner Brian Bannon, the mayor opted not to deliver any comments.
Crews are currently pouring the building's foundation. The exterior "super structure" should be completed by November, allowing work on the interior to continue apace over the winter. Construction on the library is on schedule to be finished by the end of August 2014, according to members of the construction team.
The new library is rising up on the footprint of its predecessor, which closed in fall 2012, causing a stir among some neighbors who complained about the lack of access to library materials and services.
"I think they adequately took care of everyone," said Judie Simpson, a board member of Hollywood-North Park Community Association.
"You've got to put up with some stuff — the old library was not a good library," she said.
In the interim, patrons can check out books from a Bookmobile stationed across the street from the construction site. Many have opted to visit nearby branches such as Budlong or Mayfair, or have taken advantage of borrowing privileges that Northeastern Illinois University extended to residents.
"There are always those people who are upset by a change to their routine," said Ruth Lednicer, spokeswoman for Chicago Public Library.
Edgewater residents were similarly upset when their branch closed for two years while a new library was being built, she said. Now the Edgewater branch is breaking records for usage.
"I think what they'll find is there's so much more to choose from," Lednicer said of people in Albany Park.
The library's collection will be greatly expanded, thanks to the additional 6,000 square feet, she said. A dedicated space for teens, which will include digital media tools, will be another new feature.
Albany Park branch manager John Glynn, who's been temporarily reassigned to the Harold Washington Library Center during construction, is looking forward to seeing familiar faces when, along with the remainder of his staff, he returns to his old stomping grounds.
"You miss your senior regulars," said Glynn.
Based on previous experience with other library openings, Glynn predicts it will take staff two months to get the library up and running once the building is cleared for occupants.
"The challenge is getting all the books on the shelves, creating programs and making sure you're ready on Day One," he said.
The library is being funded through the Lawrence-Kedzie Tax Increment Finance district.