Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Tribute to the Chicago Public Library

As people use the last of their 2012 commemoratory fireworks, the Chicago Public Library system celebrates its 141st anniversary. Now with almost 80 locations around the city, CPL saw over 10 million visitors during last year alone. The community continues to grow. At 5,743,002 total books, the American Library Association declares the Chicago Public Library to be the 30th largest library in the nation.

Immediately after the Great Chicago Fire in October 1871, the first CPL building was built. London's A.H. Burgess and author Thomas Hughes put together what became known as the "English Book Donation." Burgess told the Chicago Tribune in December 1871: "I propose that England should present a Free Library to Chicago, to remain there as a mark of sympathy now, and a keepsake and a token of true brotherly kindness forever." The donation produced over 8,000 books (some from Queen Victoria herself) and the first CPL building was up and running.

In the years since its inception, the 70+ branches have provided reading programs, author events, literary workshops, children's interactive story time, discussion groups, and a lecture series. This past April, the Chicago Public Library joined other institutions around the country in the e-book transition. Since the spring, Chicago patrons have been able to check out a wide range of electronic novels, memoirs, essays, comic books, and cookbooks to their e-readers.

Besides its unique services, however, CPL also fulfills an overall need for the city's students. In November 2010, NPR released a story noting that "nearly one in four Chicago public elementary schools and more than fifty high schools don't have staffed, in-school libraries." While schools around the city struggle with resources, students can find both important books and a safe, secure study space in CPL locations. Similarly, students may partake in the libraries various free educational programs and seek the assistance of CPL librarians, even though their own schools may not have any of the above offerings.

From a workshop called "Introduction to Computers" to the latest e-copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany to a guest appearance by author Lowell Thompson, the Chicago Public Library system dedicates time and energy to best serving the needs of Chicago students, adults, and patrons.


  1. I adore the Chicago Public Library. No, more specifically: I'd be BROKE without the Chicago Public Library.

  2. BFS,

    I just stumbled across your site while doing one of my periodic "googlings" to see if anybody knows I'm still kickin'. Thanks for the mention.

    And thanks for plugging the CPL. I'm one of those who never even "darkened the doors" (pun intended) of a library until I was well into my middle age. But now, I go the the Bezazian branch all the time. I did most of my last book, :"African Americans in Chicago" sitting there.

    Long live the CPL.

    Lowell Thompson

    BTW: Speaking of CPL, I'm doing a talk at the Sulzer Regional Library on Feb. 21, 2013 at 7 pm.