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West Ridge Community Groups Say New Library Is 'Urgent Need' In Petition

By Linze Rice | August 3, 2015 5:59am
 Residents and neighborhood groups, along with the support of Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), are rallying behind a petition calling for a new West Ridge library.
Residents and neighborhood groups, along with the support of Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), are rallying behind a petition calling for a new West Ridge library.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

WEST RIDGE — In an online petition, more than 625 community members — ranging from residents to neighborhood group members to elected officials — are rallying behind efforts to see the Northtown Branch Library in West Ridge become the state-of-the-art facility they said residents deserve.

According to the petition, the library at 6435 N. California Ave. serves 140,000 residents each year but hasn't had any renovations since it was built in 1962, a fact that organizers of the movement said makes the library's significant updates a "great and pressing need."

"A new library should house community meeting space, a youth media center, a children’s reading area, and have up-to-date computer and technology resources to better serve the needs of the community," the petition states.

"State-of-the-art public libraries today provide an array of informational and technological services — and a welcoming environment — that enrich the lives of their patrons and improve the vitality of their communities. The residents of West Rogers Park deserve no less."

The joint effort came out of discussions between neighborhood groups like West Rogers Park Community Organization, West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, the North Boundary Home Owners League, the Rogers Park Business Alliance and the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park that were held last month to discuss what changes were necessary to get the library on par with neighboring facilities, like those in Edgewater and Albany Park. The group formed a coalition they named Library Enhancement and Renovation of Northtown, or LEARN.

Proponents of the new library say the branch is behind the curve on technology and is running out of space, among other issues. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Ahmed Khan, co-chairman of West Rogers Park Community Organization Community Planning Board, said the library branch is "greatly used" by the community, but has become technologically outdated and too small for local demand.

He said their efforts have received support from local officials so far.

"The first step is to build the argument on behalf of the community," he said. "When residents and organizations representing them come together for this effort, it will be hard for relevant officials to ignore our respectful requests."

In an email to residents, West Rogers Park Community Organization Chairwoman Pamela Stauffer said Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) was among the petition's first signers.

"The Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library is a cornerstone of our neighborhood," Silverstein wrote in an email to DNAinfo Chicago. "I support any effort to improve the facility and help the librarians and staff better serve our community. I also try to encourage any community activities that will increase the already high quality of life in the 50th Ward."

In June, Stauffer said her group expected the project to cost $6 million, though it's not unusual for costs to rise as the project gains steam. She said after looking at the expenses nearby libraries incurred, she expects the $6 million figure could double, or even triple, depending on what features the West Ridge community want to include in the project.

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