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The Best Ways to Use the Chicago Public Library

Each year, the Chicago Public Library strengthens the Chicago community by enriching lives, supplying information, promoting literacy, and encouraging lifelong learning. With 81 locations serving the Chicago metropolitan area, the Chicago Public Library sparks enthusiasm for learning and remains a place to connect to and engage with the community.

In a year marked by a global pandemic that has impacted the economic and social infrastructure of the city, the Chicago Public Library’s collections, programs, and library services have served as sources of information and inspiration. Explore some of the ways you can harness the power of the Chicago Public Library, a place where your story begins.

What Services Are Available at My Library Branch?

A man pulling a book on javascript and jquery from the shelf of his local public library.

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With a diverse range of in-person and digital services, the Chicago Public Library offers access to materials and information to support the needs of all people in the community. To find out what services are available, you can email anytime or chat with a librarian Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For in-person help, all you need to do is visit a library location near you. Librarians are ready to support your research needs, locate materials at the library, offer book or movie recommendations, and answer questions about library services.

Students seeking homework help can find the tools and resources they need to help them succeed. The Chicago Public Library provides access to an online, one-on-one homework help service called Brainfuse each day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Live tutoring, online writing and language labs, and more are all available to students who are registered library patrons. In addition to student support, Brainfuse provides materials for adult learners with career resources, resume assistance, and one-on-one academic coaching.

The Chicago Public Library also offers a program called YOUmedia Chicago, which focuses on the maker movement and the digital arts and delivers an innovative, 21st-century digital learning space for teens. YOUmedia provides Chicago’s youth with experiences related to graphic design, photography, music, video, STEM, 2D and 3D design, and more.

Currently, 23 library locations around Chicago host YOUmedia middle-school and high-school programs. They provide a drop-in, out-of-school learning environment where young people can develop their skills in digital media, play games, post pictures, and collaborate on interactive projects. They also get the chance to “geek out” in online groups that foster exploration of their core interests, such as podcasts, virtual gaming, anime, and manga.

What Electronic Resources Does the Chicago Public Library Offer?

The Chicago Public Library provides several electronic material service areas that cover the following:

  • E-books.
  • Audiobooks.
  • Magazines.
  • Movies and TV shows.
  • Music.

The library offers several popular apps for accessing digital materials, such as OverDrive, hoopla, Flipster, and RBdigital Magazines. Individuals who have a Chicago Public Library card can access books, magazines, music, and more through these sources. If you’re not familiar with these forms of technology, don’t worry. Library staff members host several activities and events throughout the year that allow patrons to get help with e-books, downloadable audiobooks, and streaming content.

How Can You Access Materials That the Library Doesn’t Own?

While the Chicago Public Library maintains an impressive collection of materials, you can also request something that it doesn’t own from other libraries through an interlibrary loan. You can ask for books, audiobooks, articles, educational audio-visual materials, or microfilm through the interlibrary loan service. You can place your interlibrary loan request by calling the library office at 312-747-4344 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

What Programs Does the Library Provide to the Public?

From family storytimes and book club discussions to virtual gaming and educational resource sharing, the Chicago Public Library offers library programs for individuals of all ages, from babies to older adults. For example, the library holds frequent events and programs like arts and crafts activities, author chats, and creative writing workshops.

As of this article’s publication date, much of the Chicago Public Library’s programming has moved to a virtual format in response to the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States. To view a calendar of events and register for upcoming library programs, visit the Chicago Public Library’s event page on its website.

To foster literacy and dialogue about topics designed to promote conversation among all of Chicago’s citizens, the Chicago Public Library offers the “One Book, One Chicago” program, where everyone is challenged to read the same book. For 2020, the program’s theme is “Beyond Borders” with the book “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid. The library is offering over 40 virtual programs, book discussions, web programs, and more in order to engage participants in conversations surrounding topics of immigration, refuge, home, and family.

Can You Host a Private Event at the Chicago Public Library?

In addition to attending library-sponsored events, you can also host your own private event. The Harold Washington Library Center, the Chicago Public Library’s main branch, offers facility rentals for weddings, corporate events, gala receptions, musical performances, and more. Event spaces inside the Harold Washington Library Center include:

  • Winter Garden: This elegant atrium on the ninth floor features a 52-foot glass-paneled dome spanning the entire ceiling and offers space for more than 400 guests for a seated dinner and reception.
  • Cindy Pritzker Auditorium: Located on the library’s lower level, this 385-seat theater provides an ideal setting for a literary program, drama performance, or corporate meeting. Some of the available amenities include a 30-foot-by-30-foot stage, sound reinforcement, theatrical lighting, a podium with a microphone, and a Steinway concert grand piano.
  • Grand Lobby: The Grand Lobby on the ground floor of the building provides an attractive space for any special event. With space for 400 people, the Grand Lobby accommodates stand-up receptions for events held after regular library operating hours. From the Grand Lobby, guests can view the Houston Conwill cosmogram on the lower level.

Our team at Dahme Mechanical Industries, Inc. is happy to have provided you with the above introduction to the Chicago Public Library’s materials, programs, resources, and special offerings. Now that you know more about the best ways to use the Chicago Public Library, drop us a line and tell us about your favorite library program or service. Make today your opportunity for discovery at a Chicago Public Library branch near you.