Every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover has had a presidential library to hold their archives, but Barack Obama’s presidential center will be the first to have an actual library.
The Obama Foundation and the City of Chicago signed a tentative agreement for a branch of the Chicago Public Library to open at the Obama Presidential Center rent free, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The center will not include an official National Archives and Records Administration presidential library. Instead, the government-run archive of documents, records, and artifacts will be housed at the separate Barack Obama Presidential Library, which is closed to the public.
Per the Sun-Times, the Obamas decided to skip the millions of dollars of fundraising necessary to build and secure a traditional Presidential Library, and instead will digitize the records and make them available online.
Since the center is not part of the federal presidential library system, it’s free to go its own way. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the first chief of staff for the former president, said in a statement: “This branch will serve as a neighborhood anchor with 21st-century learning opportunities and shared spaces that will bring together community residents to gather, share, and succeed for generations to come.”