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Grant awarded to Chicago Public Library Foundation to fund ‘experience labs’ in eight city libraries

The Chicago Public Library Foundation was given a $250,000 grant by the Comcast Corporation to help bridge the “digital divide” in Chicago.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot greats a young girl at the Austin branch library, 5615 W. Race Ave., on Chicago’s West Side.
Manny Ramos

The Chicago Public Library Foundation has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Comcast Corporation to support and develop digital-heavy “experience labs” in eight public libraries across the city, officials announced Friday.

The grant will help bring to those branches three Chicago Public Library programs: the teen-driven YOUmedia, CyberNavigator which helps adults develop digital skills and a creative space for people ages 14 years old and older called Maker Lab.

At news conference announcing the grant, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’s heard countless stories of parents driving their kids and parking to parking lots of fast-food restaurants so they can use the free WiFi to do their homework.

“In this country, in this city with the wealth and the talent that we have, that should never ever be a thing,” Lightfoot said standing at the Austin branch library, at 5615 W. Race Ave., one of the branches receiving the grant money.

“I am confident that the investments of Comcast has made that we will bridge in the short term the digital divide that is holding back our children, our families and our neighborhoods.”

The other libraries that will benefit from the grant are:

  • Avalon branch, 8148 S. Stony Island Ave.
  • Toman branch, 2708 S. Pulaski Rd.
  • Sherman Park branch, 5440 S. Racine Ave.
  • Wrightwood-Ashburn branch, 8530 S. Kedzie Ave.
  • South Chicago branch, 9055 S. Houston Ave.
  • Jefferson Park branch, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave.
  • Edgewater branch, 6000 N. Broadway

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) — who chairs the Committee on Economic, Capital, and Technology Development — was encouraged with the investment.

“The library system has never been truly equal, some libraries are beautiful and well resourced [and] other libraries are falling into disrepair,” Villegas said. “Like many things in this city, the library in neighborhoods reflect the neighborhood itself.”

Two years ago, Comcast also provided a $250,000 grant to the foundation for the development of these labs in Woodson Regional Library, the Whitney M. Young branch and the Altgeld branch.

Comcast on Friday also announced the expansion of its Internet Essential program offering $9.95-per-month, no contract, internet service for those living in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) is proud of a grant from the Comcast Corporation to the Chicago Public Library Foundation that will help bolster three programs in eight public libraries in the city.
Manny Ramos

Manny Ramos is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.