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'Total Reimagination': Children's Library Reopens Downtown

"This is not the library we grew up with," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

DOWNTOWN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday celebrated the opening of the new children's library at the Harold Washington Library Center but warned parents that they might not recognize it right away.

"This is not the library we grew up with," Emanuel said, noting that the new 24,000-square-foot space on the second floor named after Thomas Hughes had not just books but play areas and a Maker Lab designed to allow kids to explore the cutting edge of computer-aided design.

The "total reimagination of the library" is designed to "engage them in the creative process," Emanuel said.

The early learning areas and librarians will also incorporate the five practices of early learning — talk, sing, read, write and play — into each center as well as science, technology, engineering and math programs, city officials said.

The new programs and space were made possible by a $2.5 million grant to the Chicago Public Library Foundation from Exelon Corp., the largest gift in the foundation's history.

It will serve as the flagship early learning center, with 14 satellite locations at libraries throughout the city:

• Austin Irving Branch

• Budlong Woods Branch

• Legler Branch

• Little Village Branch

• Lozano Branch

• Sherman Park Branch

• South Chicago Branch

• Sulzer Regional Library

• Thurgood Marshall Branch

• Toman Branch

• West Englewood Branch

• West Pullman Branch

• Woodson Regional Library