CLOSED FOR REHAB: The Austin Branch library will be closed for renovations over the next several weeks. | Photos courtesy of Chicago Public Library

Austin will be down to just one full-fledged branch library for the next month and a half after North Austin branch library closes on Dec. 18. It won’t reopen until the end of January 2018. 

The closing comes as Austin branch library remains closed for renovations. While it was originally scheduled to reopen on Nov. 11, the reopening date has been pushed back several times. As of Dec. 10, the Chicago Public Library system website listed it as Feb. 5, 2018. 

This will leave the Austin community area with only two libraries and only one library that provides the full range of branch services. CPL has recommended some alternatives in nearby community areas. And thanks to the reciprocal cards program, residents can also borrow books and use computers at libraries in the nearby suburbs. 

Normally, Austin is served by three libraries — Austin branch library, at 5615 W. Race Avenue; North Austin branch library, at 5724 W. North Avenue; and West Chicago Avenue branch library, at 4856 W. Chicago Avenue. Galewood is served by Galewood-Montclare branch library, at 6871 W. Belden Avenue, but it has a smaller selection of materials than the other three and, unlike most branch libraries, it doesn’t have any meeting spaces and public computers and isn’t open on Saturdays. 

Austin Library is the oldest of the four, and it has the largest meeting space. According to the library website, it can hold up to 130 people, and it can be reserved by any resident, business or organization. 

The North Austin branch went through several locations, opening in the current building in 1995. It is the closest full-fledged branch to Galewood, offering most of the amenities as Austin and West Chicago branches. 

It is the only library in Austin to have two meeting rooms — the smaller meeting room at the northeast corner of the building, which can hold up to 15 people, and a larger meeting room near the children’s area, which can hold up to 40 people. 

The Austin branch library closed on Sept. 25. At the time, Patrick Molloy, Chicago Public Library’s Director of Government and Public Affairs, said that they wanted to open up the roof skylight and put in a new circulation desk. The renovation plans also included making the building more energy-efficient, replacing the carpets, repainting the interiors and generally “refreshing” the building. 

It is not currently clear why the re-opening has been pushed back two months. A CLP librarian said that it was because asbestos was found in the building, requiring abatement. Molloy didn’t respond to this newspaper’s request for comment before this issue’s deadline.

The official Chicago Public Library Board of Directors schedule currently has April 17, 2018 meeting taking place at Austin branch. 

The delay did have an unexpected benefit for patrons. According to CPL website, any books that were checked out from Austin branch won’t be due until it reopens. Patrons can still drop off books at other branches. 

As for the North Austin branch, the sign posted on its door recommended patrons go to the West Chicago branch, as well as West Humboldt Park’s North Pulaski branch, at 4300 W. North Ave, and Belmont-Cragin’s West Belmont branch, at 3104 N. Narragansett Avenue. 

The three libraries have similar amenities as North Austin branch and the West Belmont branch actually has a larger meeting room than other two. 

And these aren’t the only alternatives. CPL has reciprocal agreements with most libraries in Chicago suburbs, including Oak Park Public Library, Elmwood Park Public Library and Forest Park Public Library. 

Anyone who already has a CPL card can register their card at any of those libraries, which would allow them to check out materials and use library computers.


Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...