Merlo Branch Library reopens after $6 million rehab

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who also spoke at the ceremony, said the building originally was a Works Progress Administration project. It had been renovated once before, in the 1980s, Tunney said.

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Chicago’s Merlo Branch Library, 644 W. Belmont . Merlo Branch closed last year in order to undergo a $6 million gut renovation project. It reopened Wednesday, though with. social distancing enforced.

Chicago’s Merlo Branch Library, 644 W. Belmont . Merlo Branch closed last year in order to undergo a $6 million gut renovation project. It reopened Wednesday, though with. social distancing enforced.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

After a $6 million rehab, a 78-year-old Lake View library branch reopened Wednesday, though with social distancing measures in place.

The Merlo Branch Library, located at 644 W. Belmont, was closed last year for the extensive gut renovation project.

Among those speaking at the rededication was Joan Merlo, youngest daughter of John “Jack” Merlo, the former alderman and state lawmaker for whom the building is named.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who also spoke at the ceremony, said the building originally was a Works Progress Administration project. It had been renovated once before, in the 1980s, Tunney said.

The area around the library has plenty of schools, and “trust me, they have been asking for months when their library is gonna reopen,” Tunney said Wednesday.

Social distancing measures, including one-way rows between the shelves, are in place at the newly renovated Merlo Branch Library in Lake View.

Social distancing measures, including one-way rows between the shelves, are in place at the newly renovated Merlo Branch Library in Lake View.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also attended the festivities and fondly recalled her time spent in libraries while growing up in Ohio, where she said she got “shushed” by librarians “more times than I can count.”

Upgrades to the two-story library include a large community space, a children’s area with a new Maker Lab, and an Early Learning Play Space. There’s also a large enclosed YOUmedia area for teens, and an adult area with computers. There is now a significant focus on LGBTQ+ materials. The community spaces, however, are closed for now and will reopen only as public health guidance allows.

The building has expanded accessibility, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

The first floor of Chicago Public Library’s Merlo Branch, 644 W. Belmont Ave.

The first floor of Chicago Public Library’s Merlo Branch, 644 W. Belmont Ave.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Measures to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic are highlighted near the entrance of the reopened Merlo Branch LIbrary.

Measures to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic are highlighted near the entrance of the reopened Merlo Branch Library, which has undergone a $6 million renovation.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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