A hum greets guests coming into the Austin Department of the Chicago Public Library appeared uncommon, emanating from a rear studying room.
It’s the distinct hum of electrical clippers, the backdrop noise of any barbershop, recognizable as you draw close to.
However right here, within the library?
Yup. Contained in the bustling room are a bunch of tweens and teenagers, some with mother and father, others who got here on their very own. Many are awaiting their flip. Just a few sit aproned below barbers meticulously shearing bushy heads into shut cropped crews, tapered fades, orderly afros, and a Mohawk or two.
“I requested for a taper. I feel he did job,” mentioned Jason Bryant, 12, as he exited the chair and surveyed the work of barber Joshua Kruel, 28.
Kruel, who grew up in Austin and now lives in west suburban Boulder Hill, drives two hours spherical journey month-to-month, each second Monday, to provide children free haircuts, as a part of the department’s “Fades for Days” program, which began in February.
Teen librarian Armena Ketchum had been considering new methods to attract youth into the library at 5616 W. Race, which closed final September for 4 months of renovations. Veteran barber Alexander Fowles, 42, of Rogers Park, pitched the pop-up barbershop concept after studying of an identical program on the West Englewood Department. The 2 communities are among the many hardest within the metropolis.
“I got here by right here someday, was speaking to the department supervisor and requested if she’d ever contemplate having some barbers are available, and we may give haircuts, possibly have somebody come and average, possibly we may learn some books, , this might be a protected haven,” mentioned Fowles, a barber of 20 years.
“I contract with locations like homeless shelters, nursing properties, hospitals, as a part of my enterprise, and infrequently will do it even when individuals can’t pay. In the event you may see the look on individuals’s faces, the enjoyment, after haircut. It makes you very grateful that God has given you a expertise the place you possibly can assist somebody,” Fowles mentioned.
The venture aligns with a systemwide effort to attract extra youth to make the most of the library’s teen companies, a Chicago Public Library spokeswoman mentioned. These efforts embrace 1st Saturdays: Careers in Focus, exposing teenagers to various careers; YOUmedia, devoted teen digital studying areas increasing to 20 places by yr’s finish; and final month’s ChiTeen Lit Fest, a two-day fest now in its third yr.
Ketchum reached out to a couple extra barbers, and Fowles’ imaginative and prescient was realized.
“There hadn’t been a teen librarian right here in 4 years. So there was a complete technology of highschool college students that hadn’t interacted with anybody within the library. I mentioned I’ve to discover a method that’s going to enchantment to the youth and get them enthusiastic about coming in. What higher method than free haircuts?” mentioned Ketchum, who’s fast to cite from the e book, “Crown: An Ode to the Contemporary Reduce,” by Derrick Barnes, on the facility of a cool reduce to bolster a child’s confidence.
“Within the Austin group, there’s plenty of gang exercise, drug exercise, homelessness, poverty, only a lengthy checklist of distractions that teenagers have. What I discover out as we speak is that our youth really are disconnected from what it means to be a youngster,” Ketchum mentioned. “However this program has allowed us to attach with them in a method that they realize it’s a protected area. They know that there are individuals like me right here that care and really need to join with them, to know what they want. What I hope to see are the teenagers coming simply rising in numbers.”
“Fades for Days” is billed for younger males ages 13-18, an at-risk inhabitants, however Ketchum and her barbers — on a latest day, Fowles, Kruel and Gregory Cooper, 34, of Naperville — usually ignore the age parameter, and trim up youthful siblings.
Each Cooper and Kruel make the lengthy treks as a result of they need to give again.
“Rising up, I appeared as much as my barbers, and beloved going to the barbershop and listening to the grown males’s conversations,” Kruel mentioned. “I used to study so much from them, and I wished to deliver that again for teenagers right here.”