I arrived a few days early to #ala2013 to spend time with some friends from undergrad (any other Millikin University alums out there?). So I’ve taken the opportunity to visit some public libraries today.
I spent last night hanging out with a friend in Oak Park and this morning she took me to visit her local public library. I was expecting a small, quiet location, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the bustling and beautiful kid’s area of the Oak Park Public Library. The library’s SRP theme is “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and the area was whimsically decorated with staff and patron created artwork. For instance, umbrellas embellished with tulle were hung from the ceiling to look like jellyfish and several walls were covered with ocean themed haikus written and illustrated by children. On our way out the door our eyes were immediately drawn to the interactive exhibit called the Idea Room. The floor and wall were plastered with pages and the room was filled with books covered in blank pink paper. Library users had decorated the covers of many of the books and the space was fun to explore and discover. The library was brightly colored and sunlit and I could’ve spent all day there.
However, we had to catch a train downtown to meet up with a colleague of mine at the Chicago Public Library. The trip took far longer than we expected because of the huge crowds the Blackhawks Parade had attracted. The parade was long over by the time we arrived, but the people, police, and street cleaners still clogged the streets. I have never seen so much black and red in one place!
Stepping into the cool of CPL and i knew it was worth all the hassle. Naturally, I made a beeline to the large and well organized children’s area on the 2nd floor. There we met up with my colleague and made our way to the Special Collections and Preservation Division on the 9th floor, which took us through the gorgeous Winter Garden, a sort of indoor courtyard topped with a glass roof. The exhibits (one featuring Harold Washington and another with Civil War materials) on this floor was worth the extra walk, especially the intricate Civil War swords! We ended our tour with a quick trip through the Visual and Performing Arts Department on the 8th floor. To be honest, I could’ve explored all day if my stomach hadn’t reminded me it was lunch time!
Today’s adventures reminded me how inspiring it can be to visit other libraries, whether it’s a branch in the quiet suburbs or the main library in noisy city.