Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon, 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis and members of the Chinatown community to celebrate the opening of the new Chinatown Library Branch. The new 16,370-square-foot, two story branch is nearly 6,000 square feet larger than the previous rental facility. Serving as a cultural and information center for not only Chinatown and Chicago residents, but for tourists and other visitors to the area, the Chinatown Branch has consistently been the busiest branch in the Chicago Public Library system, serving approximately 21,000 patrons a month.
“This beautiful, modern design is a model for what a neighborhood library should be, and it is the latest success story in the new chapter we are writing at Chicago Public Library,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Whether it is YouMedia platforms, high-speed internet, state-of-the-art resources, 3D maker Labs or STEM education – our libraries have truly become what they are meant to be across Chicago: community campuses right in our neighborhoods.”
This new branch offers a unique blend of traditional library services and the cutting edge technology featured in 21st century libraries, as well as striking modern architecture and community specific design features. The Library implemented their first-ever Design/Build approach for a neighborhood branch library, enabling the design and construction services to be merged into a single entity. The Library and the Public Building Commission (PBC) selected the team of Wight & Company and Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) to design a building to reflect the history and culture of this important Chicago neighborhood, while providing a state-of-the-art library space for residents.
“This new library continues to bring world-class design to Chicago’s neighborhoods while creating a community-specific building,” said Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “We are excited to be able to provide the Chinatown community with this state-of-the-art library that will better serve the needs of the modern Chinese immigrant as well as the longtime Chicago resident.”
The planning process for this first-ever Design/Build approach included strong participation from the community. CPL and the PBC worked with members of the Chinatown community and key stakeholders in visioning sessions to create design goals and a spatial program concept that was used in selecting the Design/Build team.
“The Public Building Commission is proud to have developed this iconic building that reflects the history and culture of this important Chicago neighborhood, while providing a state-of-the-art library space for residents,” said Felicia S. Davis, Executive Director of the Public Building Commission. “The library represents a new opportunity to further invigorate the Chinatown community by creating a new civic, educational and social hub for Chinatown, providing a place of discovery and learning in our new digital age.”
The $19.1 million branch construction project was funded through the 24th/Michigan TIF District and managed by the Public Building Commission. Design elements of the interior and exterior of the Chinatown branch are specific to the community it serves. The two-story structure is a steel-framed and glass building with natural light and excellent views of the city. The branch has been architecturally designed to incorporate aspects important to the community, such as a “green” living roof, as well as feng shui influenced interior design. This includes the positioning and alignment of the entryway, the open, central atrium with natural light, and connected reception area.
The building incorporates energy efficient building systems and water use reduction measures and has a partially covered “living” roof with growing vegetation. Native plantings and permeable pavement were also incorporated into the property design. Additionally, a mural within the building, created by local artist C.J. Hungerman and entitled Universal Transverse Immigration Proclamation, is unique to the rich Chinatown culture.
“Modern libraries are more than a place to shelve books,” said Alderman Danny Solis. “This new library will create a new civic, educational and social hub for Chinatown, providing a place of discovery and learning in our new digital age.”
The library has a large central space for community gathering and a large, a glass-enclosed community room for events and programs and two meeting rooms for small group work. It features a large reading room, a YOUmedia digital media space for teens, an expanded community room, children's reading room, meeting space for community use, state of the art technology, Wi-Fi, and self-check out stations.
The branch includes one of the first early literacy and learning spaces in the city, designed for children ages 0-5, including content and programming that focus on the five early learning skills – Talk, Sing, Read, Write and Play – and will incorporate STEM learning into the space. Branch programs will include family story times and book clubs, learning games and Duplos, and STEM-based programming. Children of all ages will have access to CPL’s Teacher in the Library homework help program.
The new enclosed teen digital learning center will include a 3D printer, vinyl and laser cutters, recording equipment and studio space for teens to create and design. The YOUmedia programs also connect teens with skilled mentors to inspire collaboration and career exploration. Teens will be offered a variety of STEM-based and financial literacy programs.
Chinatown residents will enjoy a new $350,000 opening day collection that includes materials in English and Chinese for all ages. This location also includes a Chinese Heritage Collection. The Chinatown Branch will offer information and referral services for New Americans. There will be adult book discussions, ethnic heritage celebrations, financial planning seminars, and CyberNavigator services to help adults with digital skills.
The Chicago Public Library Foundation provides private support in order to grow innovative library programs like Teacher in the Library, YOUmedia labs for teens, and digital skills training for adults through the CyberNavigator program. They empower kids and adults to engage in Library programming year round by funding the award-winning Summer Learning Challenge and One Book, One Chicago. Their private support enables the Library to leverage their public funding to provide world class programs and services to our Chicago communities.