Exhibit: Stories We Tell: The History of the Lozano Branch

The Stories We Tell: The History of the Lozano Branch exhibit is on display at the Lozano Branch from May 1 - October 31. Stories We Tell is an exhibit series celebrating 150 years of Chicago Public Library at branches around the system. This exhibit was curated by Daylily Alvarez, branch manager of the Lozano Branch.

Early Beginnings in Pilsen

The first Chicago Public Library in Pilsen was a sub-branch inside Gad’s Hill Center at 1919 W. Cullerton Street. Established in 1898, the organization was known as Gads Hill Social Settlement, serving mostly low-income immigrants on the Lower West Side. The sub-branch remained inside Gad’s Hill Center until 1988. Over the years, Gad’s Hill Center changed with the times and with the various immigrant populations it served. Pilsen, originally a neighborhood of Czech immigrants, became a home for Mexican immigrants in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Pilsen neighborhood also was home to the Pilsen Branch, a small storefront library at 1842 S. Blue Island Avenue. Wanting more space for reading material and cultural programs, neighborhood residents organized the Pilsen Library Committee and petitioned the alderman for a new library. Finally in 1985, residents received promises of a new 18,000 square foot library on Loomis Street.

Introducing Rudy Lozano Branch

Rudy Lozano Branch opened in September 1989 at 1805 S. Loomis Street. Named after Rodolfo “Rudy” Lozano, a community activist and labor organizer, the branch remains a commemorative marker of Lozano’s service to the Pilsen community. Lozano’s activism continued the agenda of the Chicano Movement and Moratorium of the 1960s and 1970s. His organizing centered on building multiracial coalitions along issues of access to housing, fair labor practices, higher education, social mobility and immigrants’ rights.

Lozano Branch was also a mecca for chess players of all ages and skill levels. Under the guidance of inaugural branch manager (and chess champion) Hector Hernandez, along with volunteering chess masters in the Chicagoland area, the Knight Moves Chess Club became a flagship program. Lozano Branch’s significance to the Pilsen community betokens a spirited tradition of activism and artistic expression that places Pilsen on the map for social movements and as a port of entry to immigrant Chicagoans. The art and architecture of the building pays homage to the ancestral roots, struggles and aspirations of the Mexican immigrant community.

Do you have any memories of the libraries in Pilsen? Let us know on social media by tagging #CPL150.

About CPL 150

Chicago Public Library is 150 years young! Since first opening our doors in 1873, we've served all Chicagoans with free and open places to gather, learn, connect, read and be transformed. Join us in celebrating 150 years of serving our communities. Learn more by visiting chipublib.org/150.