Town hall seeks campus input on Obama Presidential Library

Obama Presidential Library logo (F)

The campus community is invited to a town hall Friday, noon to 2 p.m. in 605 Student Center East, on UIC’s bid for the Obama Presidential Library.


Students and employees can share their thoughts on UIC’s bid to become the future home of the Obama Public Library and Museum at a town hall meeting Friday. Learn more about the UIC-North Lawndale Obama Presidential Library proposal from noon to 2 p.m. in 605 Student Center East.

“We’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on how the library can enrich our campus and partner communities, along with the entire city,” said university librarian Mary Case, co-chair of the UIC Obama Presidential Library Steering Committee. “We hope the excitement and enthusiasm for this effort that many of us feel will be contagious.”


Mary Case

“We’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on how the library can enrich our campus,” says university librarian Mary Case. Photo: Michael Bonfigli

Last month, the Barack Obama Foundation announced the selection of UIC as one of four finalists to host the library and museum. The other finalists are University of Chicago, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii.

Finalists must submit detailed proposals for their sites by Dec. 11. The Barack Obama Foundation board will share its recommendations with the president and first lady, who will make the final decision in early 2015.

UIC has proposed three sites: Harrison Field at Harrison and Halsted streets; a location in the Illinois Medical District at Taylor Street and Ashland Avenue; and a North Lawndale site in partnership with the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee. The 23-acre North Lawndale site is bordered by 5th Avenue to the north, Kildare Avenue to the east, Roosevelt Road to the south, and Kostner Avenue to the west. The land is just south of the Eisenhower Expressway and the CTA Blue Line.

UIC is working on its final proposal, which requires detailed information about the sites, such as zoning and tax status, Case said. UIC must also prepare economic, transportation and marketing plans for the library and museum, she said.

“It asks for information on the partnerships we have that may have bearing on the project,” Case said. “It asks us to describe the centers and institutes that currently exist on campus, and what institute and academic programs we would propose to partner with the Obama Foundation.”

Steering committee members met with members of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration and state legislators to build support and determine what contributions the city and state could make if UIC was selected for the library and museum, said Dick Simpson, professor of political science.

“Having the library and museum would be an enormous recognition of the importance of our university,” said Simpson, a former Chicago alderman. “It would supercharge efforts we’ve made in the past to connect to the community, city and world.”

The Obama Presidential Library will be part of the presidential library system, which includes 13 libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. It will preserve and make available to the public the papers, records and other historical materials that document the lives of the president, his family, associates and administration.

Danielle Leibowitz

“Having a student perspective is really helpful,” says student trustee Danielle Leibowitz. Photo: Michael Bonfigli

The final proposal asks how UIC would encourage civic engagement through the library and museum, Simpson said.

Creating a technology-rich experience with the Electronic Visualization Lab could be one answer. “It’s a real opportunity to create an entirely different library than any of the previous presidential libraries,” Simpson said.

UIC student trustee Danielle Leibowitz encourages students to get involved at the town hall meeting. “The purpose is to really engage the community, and student participation is a big part of that,” said Leibowitz, a senior in the teaching of mathematics. “It’s an opportunity to speak on something the university is working on that may have an impact on them. Having a student perspective is really helpful for us.”

Students can take an active role in supporting UIC’s bid for the library and museum by showing support on social media using #uicisobama, Leibowitz said. Students who want to get involved to support UIC’s bid for the library and museum can contact her at

“Moving on to the final phase of the Obama Presidential Library bid process is a huge win for UIC,” she said.  “A goal of ours throughout this process has been to showcase the wonderful work that UIC does, and the outstanding people that are a part of our community.”

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