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2013 Year in Review: Chicago Public Library, Part I

The Chicago Public Library (CPL) reported that last year the CPL system - the Harold Washington Library Center (H.W.L.C.), two regional libraries, the Popular Library at Water Tower, and scores of neighborhood branches - circulated 9,542,052 items (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.). It had 10,374,334 visitors (or at least people visited that many times, considering that some people made multiple trips).

Visitors placed 1,397,966 holds. The CPL filled 2,002,312 holds. To explain the discrepancy, I would offer that we should assume that includes holds placed in 2012 and placed in 2013.

There were 2,816,255 sessions of public-access computers and 1,506,985 Wi-Fi sessions. As of December 31, 2013, the CPL had 725 full-time employees and 185 part-time employees.

Last December, Shia Kapos reported in her Crain's Chicago Business blog that about 100 friends and relatives of Cindy Pritzker, the founding chairman of the Chicago Public Library Foundation (C.P.L.F.) had donated $90,000 to the CPLF at a birthday party for Mrs. Pritzker in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on December 15, 2013. Mrs. Pritzker, who turned ninety, had spearheaded efforts to raise private funds to help pay for the construction of the HWLC, which cost $175,000,000. Ms. Kapos also pointed out Mrs. Pritzker "had a hand in transforming fundraising for the Museum of Science and Industry."

Earlier in December, the Chicago Sun-Times Foundation, which is a fund of the Chicago Community Trust, offered the CPLF a $50,000 matching grant to help fund learning programs at the CPL, as reported in Gazette Chicago. [The CPLF funds Teacher in the Library, as well as other programs.] To meet this challenge, the foundation ran a Double Your Dollars campaign through December 31st. Under this offer, any donation to the CPLF was matched, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000.

For some reason, the news did not register here until January, but last November, the Information Science Department of Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf ranked the CPL best library in the U.S. and the third-best in the world in an empirical study of thirty-one major urban public libraries, "Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society: Core Services of Libraries in Informational World Cities." By comparison, the CPL came in ahead of the public libraries in Shanghai (5th), Singapore (7th), New York (9th), Beijing (13th), Hong Kong (17th) and London (30th).

“Libraries serve as economic and social anchors in our communities, which is why it is so important to invest in these neighborhood hubs,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This report adds to the volume of research recognizing the leading global role that Chicago Public Library has taken in leveraging technology to enhance library services and underscores the fact that Chicago is recognized internationally as a world-class city.”

The CPL was one of the winners of the 12th annual Chicago Innovation Awards after being nominated for its experimental Maker Lab in the HWLC. The CPL was announced as one of the award winners at an event held at Chicago’s Harris Theater on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 with nearly 1,500 business and civic leaders attending.

“In our 21st century economy, you earn what you learn and at the Harold Washington Library Maker’s Lab, students and residents are provided the opportunity to learn and innovate in the first free public maker space in Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This award embodies the efforts of the Chicago Public Library in extending digital learning and discovery to our most vital resource, Chicago’s youth.”

“Chicago is an innovation hub with talented leaders who aren’t afraid to be bold, be confident and try new approaches,” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards. “Every winner of the Chicago Innovation Awards embodies this mindset, and each one has an inspiring story of achievement and vision.”

“Libraries across the globe are looking for ways to expand the public’s access to 21st century ideas and information and CPL is leading that charge,” said Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “I am honored that Chicago Public Library’s Maker Lab was recognized by such a prestigious organization. What wonderful validation for our first experiment in our Innovation Lab.”

Included in the award prize is the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ bell in New York City, a profile in Crain’s Chicago Business, and a three-day business and innovation training seminar at the Disney Institute in Orlando, with tuition and accommodations included. “When you consider the impact of the innovations developed by the award winners, the depth and the quality of the more than 500 nominees, and the sheer volume of Chicagoland businesses that have created this wave of momentum and success, it is clear that Chicago is a respected global center of innovation,” said Luke Tanen, Executive Director, Chicago Innovation Awards.

The CPL and CPLF honored Isabel Allende, Michael Lewis, and Christine Sneed at the annual Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. As per usual, the event took place at The Forum, located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (U.I.C.) on the Near West Side of Chicago.

Novelist Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits, City of the Beasts) and bestselling non-fiction author and financial journalist Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Blind Side) won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. Grace Paley Prizewinner Christine Sneed (Little Known Facts, Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry) received the 21st Century Award, honoring significant recent achievement by a Chicago-area writer.