According to Ald. Michael Scott (24th), the Douglass branch library is long overdue for renovations.

During his July 26 community meeting, which was held at UCAN campus, 3605 W. Fillmore St., the alderman said that he wanted to turn the building into something more attractive and with more natural light — and he’s secured over $2 million to accomplish it. 

The details of that plan, however, are vague. While the Chicago Public Library system secured the first $1 million in Tax Increment Financing funds earlier this year, they didn’t get the other $1 million until recently, so the library is scrambling to figure out what it can do with the increased funding. 

Scott said that he was looking to put in a skylight and make the building accessible to people with disabilities while the library is looking to put in more amenities for preschool kids and teenagers, as well as to generally spruce up the interiors. But none of those ideas will be set in stone until the library figures out what it can actually afford.

Douglass branch library, 3353 W. 13th St., is the only Chicago Public Library system branch library in North Lawndale. Originally built in 1929, it went through an extensive redesign in 1980. 

As Scott acknowledged during the July 26 meeting, the library renovations have been floated for months. He didn’t share many details, emphasizing that plans were still being finalized and that he didn’t want to give the wrong information.  

Scott did mention that he would like to put in a skylight and reconfigure the interiors. Scott also mentioned that, with the extra $1 million, he expects the changes to include making the library ADA-compliant.

Patrick Molloy, CPL’s director of government and public affairs, said that the original plans were relatively modest — façade repairs and improvements, as well as some minor interior work. With the extra $1 million, CPL will most likely be doing something more intensive.

“I think we’re going to have the majority of interiors impacted, instead of just a few improvements,” Molloy said.

He said that the library hopes to put in a YouMedia space, an area where teens can create art and media projects — something that CPL has been gradually adding to libraries over the last decade. CPL is also looking to put in a preschool learning space. 

Molloy said that none of this is final. The library has to check to make sure how much renovation that $2 million purchases and once that’s done, CPL will be ready to give more specific details about what kind of renovations the Douglass branch library will actually get. 

Molloy said that the first $1 million came from TIF funds, $1 million more came from city capital funding and $150,000 came from Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management funds.

Scott told his constituents that he expected to share the final plans during his Sept. 27 community meeting, which will be held at Douglas Park fieldhouse, 1406 S. Sacramento Blvd., 6 p.m.

He added that he expected the renovations to start at the end of 2018. 

The alderman also emphasized that, if he could get more money for the Douglass branch library improvements, he definitely would.

“I don’t think they’re going to give me more than $2 million, but if they’re going to give me more, I’m going to take it, “Scott said. “You as residents deserve more. North Lawndale deserves more.”


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...