MacArthur today announced a $5 million grant to create a new branch of the Chicago Public Library (CPL) at the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). The public library will provide residents and visitors with access to collections and programming that enable them to explore their interests, learn, and engage with their communities.
“A public library is an essential civic institution, a place for communities to gather and for individuals to learn about themselves and other people,” MacArthur President Julia Stasch said. “Embedding a public library branch in the Obama Presidential Center will connect Chicago residents and visitors, especially youth, to each other and to a world of imagination and information. President Obama encourages us all to be informed civic leaders, dedicating our collective talents to making our communities, our nation, and the world better, as he has done.”
In 2018, the City Council approved the operation of a CPL branch at the OPC. The 5,000 square-foot public library will house multimedia collections, host community programming, and include spaces for reading and studying that can be converted to open seating for events. MacArthur’s grant to the Obama Foundation will help fund construction of the branch as well as furnishings and fixtures.
“We want the Obama Presidential Center to serve as a reminder to young people around the city and the world that their potential is limitless,” said Obama Foundation Chief Engagement Officer Michael Strautmanis. “Libraries and books are windows into what is possible. Hosting this branch of the Chicago Public Library with the support of the MacArthur Foundation is a fitting way for us to honor the legacy of President Obama by inspiring, empowering, and connecting people, especially young people, with resources to change their world.”
The library will also include a dedicated children’s area and a space for YOUmedia programming where teens can explore the world and their identity and creativity using traditional media and new technologies. YOUmedia is an innovative learning space, where teens create music, video, 2D and 3D design, photos, and podcasts with the help of skilled mentors.
MacArthur invested more than $200 million over 10 years in research, design experiments, and demonstrations to understand how young people are learning with digital media and the implications for how learning is designed and supported to ensure more equitable access to opportunities. This research informed the creation of YOUmedia, initially in the Harold Washington Library, and later in 12 CPL branches with MacArthur support. The YOUmedia model was further replicated in 24 libraries and museums across the country that created physical and digital spaces for youth to learn with planning support from MacArthur and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. MacArthur is also funding CPL’s strategy development, which will inform the programs and resources available at the OPC library branch.
“The new branch library at the OPC will provide a space for community residents of all ages to gather, share, learn, and succeed,” said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon. “From investments in CPL’s YOUmedia program for teens, to support of Chicago Public Library’s overall strategy development for rethinking library services, and now this investment in the first ever public library in a presidential center, MacArthur has played a key role in shaping the vision of an innovative 21st-century library.”
CPL serves 9.9 million visitors per year. Nearly 200,000 people in 2017 visited the Blackstone and Coleman branches, the two libraries closest to the future home of the OPC in Jackson Park. With increased demand for CPL programming, the new OPC branch will allow CPL to provide these resources to more library patrons across the South Side. New and improved CPL programs that support Chicagoans' evolving information needs have helped families improve their children’s health development and postsecondary outcomes; generated new skills and jobs for adult learnersand strengthened communities, according to Bannon.
For 40 years, MacArthur has been committed to Chicago, its people, its diverse neighborhoods, its strength and vitality. MacArthur has invested $1.4 billion in over 1,500 organizations and individuals across the Chicago region, more than any other place around the world. The Foundation’s Chicago Commitment is focused on strengthening organizations, supporting civic partnerships around critical issues and projects, building vital communities, advancing diverse leaders, and cultivating creative expression and art.