Imagining the Library of the Future

Categories: Foundation News

Chicago Public Library Commissioner & CEO Brian Bannon, Chicago Sun-Times’ columnist Laura Washington, and more than 50 corporate and civic leaders came together on February 21 for a vibrant discussion on what the future holds for the Library.

LibraryMore Relevant Now Than Ever Before

“Is the Chicago Public Library becoming obsolete?”, Laura Washington opens the conversation in candor.  After all, the Internet has made getting information faster and more convenient. Why go to the Library when (almost) everything you need to know is a click away? “Actually, the Library is more relevant now than ever before. Yes, people are using it in different ways. But the core mission remains the same−connect Chicago to information, to knowledge, and to the world,” Brian responds with pride.

So, how does a 146-year-old institution navigate the 21st century? Through a consistent transformation that embraces the future. Gone is the myth that technology will render the libraries outdated. If anything, connecting the Library to the digital world has rejuvenated it, opening opportunities to serve communities in ways we have never imagined.

“Part of Chicago Public Library’s charm is that we are still quaint. People can find a quiet corner to read and get lost in our book collections. At the same time, we have also created meaningful learning experiences that leverage technology and innovation available to us,” Brian explains.

This is evident in the lifelong learning programs in our 81 branches−from Early Learning Centers that integrate learning and play−to one-on-one digital literacy workshops for adults through the donor-funded CyberNavigator program.

Making an Impact Together

Over the years, Chicago Public Library has instituted programs that transform the lives of children, teens, and adults. Now, we have data to back up the impact. “We partnered with Chapin Hall to help us make sense of the data,” Brian shares.

“The results have been astounding. Summer Learning Challenge participants show 15% gains in reading and 20% gains in math. Teens in our YOUmedia program are 9% more likely to enroll in college. And last year, nearly 1,000 patrons found a job with the help of CyberNavigators, who work with patrons to update their resumes, apply to jobs online, or enhance on-the-job computer skills,” he continues.

These accomplishments are made possible by a community that works together to support the Library−a City that recognizes the valuable role libraries play as learning centers and community anchors, and a thriving private investment through Chicago Public Library Foundation that makes us the number #1 library in the nation, and #3 in the world.

“Donors like you support transformative programs for Chicagoans of all ages, gender, ethnicity, and economic status, and help us leverage a strong city-supported infrastructure to further our impact. Your generosity with your time, network, and gifts allow our Chicago Public Library to go from good, to great. You are the Library’s greatest champions,” Brian thanks the audience.

The way forward

Chicago Public Library is not the library of your childhood. Its metamorphosis from a brick and mortar warehouse of books to a forward-looking 21st century learning center has reshaped its role in Chicago’s educational ecosystem. “There’s so much to be excited for the future of our Library. As we continue to explore different emerging technologies, we will continue to find ways to integrate them into our services,” Brian shares excitedly.

As a community anchor, the Library also looks into strengthening diverse neighborhoods through its programs. “We believe that a connected community is a safer community. That is why we continue to make libraries a safe haven for everyone to come together and discuss ideas,” Brian explains.

Seeing the optimism in the room and feeling each person’s dedication to the curious, the future of Chicago Public Library looks bright. We are poised and ready for an exciting new chapter!

View the event pictures here.

Programs at Chicago Public Library are made possible by generous donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation. You, too, can make a gift that supports lifelong learning.

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