Obama Presidential Center to house Chicago Public Library branch

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Obama Presidential Center, which will be built in Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side, will include a new branch of the Chicago Public Library, according to the mayor's office.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the representatives from the Obama Foundation to make the announcement Wednesday morning.

Officials call this partnership a first of its kind, since no other presidential center houses public library access.

They said this branch will be state-of-the-art. It will have all the latest technology bells and whistles, with an emphasis on civic engagement.

Initial plans for the library include spaces for reading and study, as well as for homework help. These areas would convert to open seating for programs and events.

The library will have a dedicated children's area and what they call a "YOUmedia program". Teens would use it to express their creativity using new media.

Representatives for the Obama Presidential Center said it makes perfect sense for these facilities to be integrated into their overall plan.

"The very idea of a public library underscores so much of what we're doing with the foundation to support civic engagement. The public library is an essential civic institution, a place for community to gather and engage and a place for the young and young-at-heart to learn," said Martin Nesbitt, the board chair for the presidential center.

He said former First Lady Michelle Obama, in particular, has pushed for ways to engage with youth at the site and that this library is an important way to get them in the door.

The two Chicago public libraries closest to the future Obama Presidential Center are the Blackstone and Coleman Branches. They collectively draw about 200,000 people a year.
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