UPTOWN — A group of residents recently formed an advocacy group to help improve a North Side public library.
Lindsay Huge, a member of local block club North Uptown Neighbors Association, founded Friends of Bezazian to help improve The Bezazian Library, 1226 W. Ainsle St., which serves both Uptown and Edgewater.
"I've used that branch for 25 years," said Huge, a longtime Uptown resident. "It's always served me and the community well."
The branch was was built in 1957 and has not undergone any renovations since then, according to Patrick Molloy, a Chicago Public Library spokesman.
Meanwhile, roughly 50-55 out of the 76 neighborhood branch libraries have either been rehabbed or been rebuilt, Molloy said. But that includes instances where new branches were built to replace storefront libraries that mostly offered rentals, he said.
Friends of Bezazian is not looking to rebuild the whole library. Instead, Huge, other group members and branch manager Mark Kaplan would like to keep the existing building but fund some improvements, such as bringing in updated equipment and furniture and restoring an original mural on the south end.
Right now, the 14,000-square-foot library is one big open room, Huge said. The group envisions an alternative work space where people can meet up and collaborate.
"We want to make the library as responsive as possible to this community," Huge said.
Another reason why Huge formed the group is because the North Side branch gets a lot of use.
"It's a very busy branch," Molloy said. "There is no question about it."
Last year, Bezazian was ranked fifth in circulation among the 76 neighborhood branches, said Molloy, adding that during that time the Albany Park branch was out of commission. If regional branches and Harold Washington are included, Bezazian ranked either seventh or eighth, he said.
Plus, new developments like Cedar Street's recent purchase of the former Combined Insurance building at 5050 N. Broadway mean even more residents will be using the library in the coming years, Huge said.
For now, Friends of Bezazian is a committee within North Uptown Neighbors Association. But the goal is to make it an independent group.
Huge is currently looking for suggestions on how to improve the library. Anyone living in North Uptown can join the advocacy group.
The branch was named after Harold A. Bezazian, a lieutenant in World War II who died in 1945 protecting his troops during the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines, according to the Chicago Public Library's website.
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