What We Fund

Each year, the Chicago Public Library Foundation provides approximately $7 million in support to Chicago Public Library.

This funding helps make the Library an innovation leader, in Chicago, nationally, and internationally. In 2013, Chicago Public Library was ranked #1 in the United States, and third best in the world, in a European study.  Responding to news of this ranking, Mayor Emanuel said, “libraries serve as economic and social anchors in our communities, which is why it is so important to invest in these neighborhood hubs. 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.”

Funding provided by the Chicago Public Library Foundation allows Chicago Public Library to pilot new, cutting edge programming, like the Internet to Go hotspot lending program, and sustain and enhance popular existing programs, such as Teacher in the Library and the Summer Learning Challenge. This private funding, made possible by the Foundation’s thousands of generous donors, also helps the Library acquire new technologies and ensure that its collections remain world class.

Read more about the Library programs supported by Chicago Public Library Foundation below, and on the individual program pages that follow.

Summer Learning Challenge

Keeps Chicago kids ages 0 to 16 reading and learning during the summer, with free, branch-based programming, field trips, and activities based around a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based theme.

One Book, One Chicago

Book clubs, presentations and workshops, art and cultural programming, and online engagement opportunities for adults and teens, focused each year around a novel or non-fiction book of local interest and relevance.

Teacher in the Library

Certified teachers assist school-aged children with their homework, individually and in small groups, four afternoons each week during the school year.


Trained computer tutors work with  Library patrons individually and in small classes, to help them take advantage of online resources and build their digital skills.


Specially designed and equipped spaces in the Harold Washington Library Center and 11 branch libraries, where teens and pre-teens can experiment with digital tools for music, photography, and design, work on group projects, do their homework, or simply hang out.

Early Learning

Re-designed spaces and programming for the youngest learners ages 0 to 5, providing parents with tools and techniques to help their kids develop the love of learning.

Maker Lab

A space for creativity and fun at the Harold Washington Library Center, where adults and teens can take workshops, or create their own projects using laser cutters, 3-D printers, and the latest in design software.

Other Programs

Internet to Go – Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Google, this pilot project enables CPL to loan out hotspots, which provide Internet connectivity for smart phones, at branches in neighborhoods with lowest levels of in-home Internet access. Some branches also loan out computer tablets.

Financial Literacy – Funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), this program helps consumers build their financial knowledge, from savings accounts and budgeting to the importance of credit scores.

Professional Development – Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, these grants have helped librarians build skills and create processes to be more responsive to patrons’ changing needs.

Special Collections and Digital Access – Grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation to preserve and digitize some of Chicago Public Library’s most valuable and unique collections.

Citizenship – Funded by Citi Community Development, this program works with outside partner organizations to help legal immigrants undertake the naturalization process.