Our advocacy efforts for a new library in the Chicago Tribune!

When Albany Park met West Rogers Park

Summers’ summit brought together a second serendipitous pairing: Rodney Walker, executive director of the Albany Park Community Center, and Scott "Shalom" Klein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park. Albany Park had successfully lobbied for a new library; West Rogers Park seeks to persuade the city to replace a 1960s-era library at 6435 N. California Ave.

“We are following the playbook of communities like Albany Park,” Klein tells us. “They said, if you want to talk to someone who can make this happen, we can help.”

Albany Park officials connected Klein with Chinatown officials and others who have learned the ways of clout to get a library built.

“What it boils down to is we are engaged in conversations and in learning that without Sister Neighborhoods, we would have never known,” Klein tells us. “If we want a library, we should be talking to people who have advocated successfully for a library.”

So far, a West Rogers Park petition drive has gathered more than 1,300 signatures in two months. A newly organized committee is bringing together a diverse group of business and civic organizations to push for the library.

Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has noticed. “The ingredient of a strong community desire (for a new library) is always important when making a decision about neighborhood improvement. Not only do we love it, but we think it is important that a community is engaged and actively interested in seeking improved services.”

And what benefits flow back to Albany Park? Walker says he is confident those will come. “We are just beginning to learn what other organizations do — which services they provide in their communities and how we could leverage those resources moving forward,” Walker tells us. Also as a result of Sister Neighborhoods, these two are planning a networking event between the business owners of their communities.