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Exploring Chicago Libraries: A Journey through History and Culture

It's Library Week, and what better way to celebrate than to embark on a journey through the rich history and extensive reach of the Chicago Public Library system? With 81 impressive locations scattered throughout the city, the Chicago Public Library continues to be a beacon of learning and community engagement.


The Tale of Chicago Libraries

Chicago Public Library Logan Square Branch Exterior
CPL Logan Square

The Chicago Public Library (CPL), serving the city of Chicago in Illinois, is a constellation of 81 distinct locations, including a central library, three regional libraries, and numerous branches scattered across the city's 77 Community Areas. Housing an impressive 5,721,334 volumes, the CPL is ranked as the ninth-largest public library in the United States in terms of volumes held. Notably, the Chicago Public Library uses the Library of Congress cataloging classification system, a departure from the Dewey Decimal system used by many other public libraries.


The story of Chicago Libraries is as varied as the city itself. The first Chicago library was built in 1873, a humble repurposed water tank at LaSalle Adams Street. From there, the system grew, with 80 other branches erected and serving communities today.


The Pillars of Chicago Libraries

Chicago libraries are not just repositories of books. They also offer a wide range of services and programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. From book clubs that ignite a love for reading in young minds to public lectures and exhibitions that engage and inspire adults, libraries create an atmosphere where learning and discovery thrive.


The Harold Washington Library

Howard Washington Top Floor Winter Garden Interior
Howard Washington Winter Garden

Named after Harold Washington, Chicago's first African American mayor, the Harold Washington Library holds significance for its architectural prowess and as a testament to the city's history and culture. Completed in 1991, the library stands as an iconic landmark within Chicago's cultural and architectural landscape.


The Newberry Library

The Newberry Library in Chicago is an esteemed cultural institution that holds significant historical and intellectual value. Founded in 1887, the library serves as a vital resource for researchers and the public, offering a rich collection of books, maps, manuscripts, and other materials.


The Chinatown Branch

The Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library is a civic, educational, and social hub for the Chinatown community. Opened in 2015, it features a two-story building with a partially covered "living" roof, influenced by Feng shui design principles.


A Dive into Chicago Libraries' Programs

Book Clubs and Storytimes

If you're a bookworm, CPL offers a variety of book clubs that cater to different literary tastes. For the fans of detective stories, there's the "MASTERPIECE™ Book Club," where you can delve into in-depth discussions on works like "The ABC Murders" and "The Mysterious Affair at Styles." CPL also hosts storytimes for families, offering a great way to bond over shared stories.


Maker Lab

Fancy creating something with your own hands? The Maker Lab at Chicago libraries is a space that provides access to various tools including a laser cutter, 3-D printer, sewing machine, and more. You can join a workshop or drop in anytime to start your creative journey.


Community Cinema

For movie enthusiasts, Chicago libraries hold weekly film screenings featuring a range of movies, from children's flicks to cinema classics. It's a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a movie with your community.


YOU Media

YOUmedia, a teen-based program, encourages collaboration amongst peers. Activities range from crafting to book clubs to video game nights. There are also programs to help teenagers get involved with computers and technology, even earning certifications!


Law at the Library

For those interested in legal matters, Chicago libraries offer a program called "Law at the Library". It provides free education to the community on law and the legal system, breaking down big ideas in legislation through workshops and seminars.


Diversity and Disability Awareness

Chicago libraries also host special sessions and programs that highlight the challenges and achievements within specific communities across Chicago. There are events to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage, Black History, Latinx History, the LGBTQ community, Women's History, and Disability Awareness.


Hanz showing off her library card in front of the Chicago Public Library
Get Your Library Card!

Celebrating Libraries in the Digital Age

In this digital age, where information is easily accessible at our fingertips, libraries remain invaluable. They continue to adapt and evolve, embracing technology while still affirming the real-life connections and experiences that can be found within their walls. So, let us continue to cherish our Chicago libraries, supporting and utilizing them, as they continue to play an essential role in empowering individuals, strengthening communities, and enriching our collective cultural fabric.


So this Library Week, let's celebrate the transformative power of libraries, affirming their significance as inclusive spaces that promote lifelong learning, encourage creativity, and foster a love for literature and the arts. Let's express our gratitude to the dedicated librarians and staff who work tirelessly to make our libraries beacons of knowledge and community.


Chicago public libraries are more than just buildings with books - they’re pillars of education, culture, and community engagement. Join us in celebrating the rich history and cultural impact of Chicago's libraries. Discover the fascinating stories behind these institutions in our latest blog post about Chicago libraries.


Celebrate all year long with our Library Week Playlist!


Or cozy up with a good book and our reading tunes!

Find More information here:

"Library Laws of Illinois." Illinois Libraries. 1999, https://www.lib.niu.edu/1999/il990294.html.

"Events." Chicago Public Library, https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/v2/events.

"Newberry." Newberry, www.newberry.org.

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