Back of the Yards High School to share li­brary with neigh­bors

Chicago Sun-Times - - NEWS - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN City Hall Re­porter fspiel­man@suntimes.com

Chicago’s new Back of the Yards High School will be de­voted ex­clu­sively to the rig­or­ous in­ter­na­tional bac­calau­re­ate diploma pro­gram tai­lor-made to pre­pare stu­dents for col­lege and house a new com­mu­nity li­brary that will be open to the pub­lic.

The new li­brary inside the high school — sched­uled to open in 2013 — marks the start of what could be a ground­break­ing part­ner­ship be­tween the Chicago Pub­lic Schools and a pub­lic li­brary sys­tem that ab­sorbed 50 per­cent of the lay­offs in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first bud­get.

The li­brary cuts were so great, they prompted the res­ig­na­tion in Jan­uary of long­time Li­brary Com­mis­sioner Mary Dempsey.

The li­brary will have its own en­trance, teen-only space and pub­lic read­ing gar­den. It will be open six days a week and staffed dur­ing school hours by city li­brar­i­ans work­ing along­side a full-time CPS teacher li­brar­ian re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing that the li­brary col­lec­tion meets the needs of the IB cur­ricu­lum.

By pool­ing di­min­ish­ing re­sources, CPS and City Hall will be able to of­fer “teen-fo­cused col­lec­tions and dig­i­tal learn­ing ameni­ties,” of­fi­cials said, and still op­er­ate a pub­lic li­brary for all Back of the Yards res­i­dents, who lost their store­front li­brary to flood­ing last year.

“I con­sider this a great idea, an in­no­va­tive idea,” Emanuel told a news con­fer­ence Tues­day in the li­brary of Ce­sar Chavez Ele­men­tary, 4747 S. Marshfield. “We’ve tra­di­tion­ally silo-ed the Chicago Pub­lic Li­braries from the Chicago Pub­lic Schools. We’ve brought them together be­cause our mis­sion is the same: teach­ing our chil­dren, serv­ing as a com­mu­nity cen- ter for our fam­i­lies and our chil­dren.”

Schools have high security to pro­tect stu­dents, in­clud­ing sur­veil­lance cam­eras, metal de­tec­tors, police of­fi­cers, security guards and vis­i­tor badges. Li­braries are open to ev­ery­body. How will the Back of the Yards High School pre­vent li­brary pa­trons from gain­ing ac­cess to the school?

“That’s an en­gi­neer­ing is­sue and that’s eas­ily ac­com­plished . . . to make sure that com­mu­nity mem­bers don’t have ac­cess to the school,” the mayor said.

Newly ap­pointed Li­brary Com­mis­sioner Brian Ban­non said he’s work­ing with the Pub­lic Build­ing Com­mis­sion to de­sign the new li­brary with security in mind.

Back of the Yards High School is sched­uled to be­come the sec­ond of five in­ter­na­tional bac­calau­re­ate schools when it opens in the fall of 2013 at 2111 W, 47th with space for 1,200 stu­dents.

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