UPTOWN — The recently formed advocacy group designed to help improve the Bezazian Library held its first meeting Wednesday, with neighbors and community leaders suggesting improvements like hosting more programming.
One improvement that's not on the table, according to group president Lindsay Huge, is building an entirely new structure. That's because the building that houses the Bezazian Library at 1226 W. Ainsle St. isn't in bad shape, even though it was built in 1957 and hasn't undergone any renovations since then.
"There are no real problems. It's just that it's so good that we want to do what we can make it better," said Huge, who called it a "Cold War structure" he likened to a bunker.
That said, Huge, other group members and branch manager Mark Kaplan believe it could use a revamp. Restoring a faded mural on the south end, updating the furniture and creating an alternative work area for people to collaborate are just some of the ideas that have been proposed.
Plus, the group believes there's room for more programming, whether it's funded by the library system or local organizations. Currently, the library is only given roughly $190 a year for programming by the Chicago Public Library system, Kaplan said. A library spokesman at the meeting said that's a standard amount.
Local artist and activist Lowell Thompson suggested more multicultural programming to make it more of a welcoming community center for low-income and homeless people.
"It's the center of the neighborhood for families," said Huge, who has been regularly visiting the library for 25 years. He pointed to the fact that his six-year-old son, Fred, recently won an award for being a spectacular reader.
"I really attribute that to the library," Huge's wife, Lisa, said of her son's award.
Despite the fact the 14,000-square-foot library gets a lot of use — it was ranked fifth in circulation among the 76 neighborhood branches last year, according to a Chicago Public Library spokesman — it is not among the list of roughly 50-55 of the branches that have been rebuilt or remodeled over the years.
Huge said while the group is planning to raise money, fundraising alone won't cover costs of the full scope of improvements advocates would like to see.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes the library, said he might able to expand the tax-increment finance boundaries to fund the improvements. He also pointed to infrastructure trust funds as a possible funding source.
Members of the newly formed group will meet again in the coming months to discuss more ideas. To get involved, email Friendsofbezazian@gmail.com or visit the group's Facebook page.
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