Chicago's new Back of the Yards high school, equipped with a full-service, community library celebrated its grand opening Thursday.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he intends to bring the new facility-sharing model to other parts of the city as a means to help cut costs for both the city and the school district.
“Here in the Back of the Yards, we’re embarking on not only a first, but on what will become copied and mimicked all across the city: putting neighborhood libraries in our schools because they serve the same community. They serve the same purpose.”
The mayor, however, did not provide specifics about this future library-in-a-school plan and what it could mean for existing libraries.
Library Commissioner Brian Bannon said the move is "not about decreasing library service and reducing."
"We’re not looking at closing libraries," he said, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. "It’s about reducing storefront and leased space. We had lost that old storefront library [in Back of the Yards]. If that opportunity comes up again where we could replace leased facilities, we’ll explore it.”
The Back of the Yards community library was destroyed in a flood two years ago. The new school and library will have independent entrances, and the building, at 2111 W. 47th St., will be open six days a week.
The library will offer neighborhood children access to early literacy programs, according to the mayor's office, and Chicago Public Schools students will have the opportunity to mentor younger children and gain community service hours within their school building.