New Thomas Hughes Children’s Library is OPEN for business, er fun!

Categories: Early Learning, Summer Learning Challenge

Families rejoice! The new Thomas Hughes Children’s Library is now open.

On Wednesday, July 12th, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Exelon executives, Chicago Public Library, and Library Foundation leadership, officially commemorated the reopening of the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library #PoweredbyExelon, located on the 2nd floor of the Harold Washington Library Center in the Loop. Exelon’s generous $2.5 million dollar grant made possible the redesign, and also funded early learning play spaces in 14 additional library branch locations.

In dedication of the opening and generous gift, Exelon President and CEO, Chris Crane, expressed, “Our contribution to the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library and additional early learning play spaces is an investment in our hometown and in our future workforce, demonstrating the importance of STEM education and helping to give Chicago’s youth the building blocks they need to be successful.”

About the new Children’s Library

The new library was designed specifically for children aged 0 to 13 to build their literacy skills, play with developmentally appropriate toys, and foster an environment where parents and caregivers can grow learning opportunities outside the library. The new space features an open floor plan with areas designated for specific age groups. All areas have resources and programming that support literacy, creativity, play-based learning, and STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Math) education.

Children 0 to 5 years old now have a space designed especially for them. The early childhood area encourages young learners to build their early literacy skills through opportunities to read with adults, play with developmentally appropriate toys, and interact with their peers, among other activities. Programming such as story times, family programs, parent workshops, and playgroups provide parents and caregivers with tips and strategies to foster learning outside of the library.

Photo credit: Patrick Pyszka

For school-aged children (6 to 9 years old), the Library has created an area that allows them to explore new ways to learn. From building towers to engineering challenges, there’s something for every child here. Children can use their creativity and develop STEAM skills in the new “maker space” or “tinkering studio,” which includes a 3D printer for kids to use, guided by trained librarians.

Tweens (age 10 to 13) also have a special place in the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library. New technology, such as a 3D printer, robots, a sewing machine, green screen, as well as other cool tech, allow tweens to make their mark.

The Thomas Hughes Children’s Library also provides opportunities for children to study with a Teacher in the Library after school throughout the school year. Additionally, children may take part in book clubs, read alone or with friends in one of the cozy reading nooks, or participate in some of the many events taking place throughout the summer and throughout the year.

The team of individuals that made this possible.

We would like to thank the Library team for all their hard work in opening this exciting new space.

The Library’s many initiatives are made possible by donations from corporate sponsors as well as individuals like you to the Chicago Public Library Foundation. To support resources and innovative program such as this at Chicago Public Library, donate here.

Chicago Public Library assembled a group of strategic advisers and thought partners to provide expertise, feedback and data throughout the Thomas Hughes design process. Representatives from organizations including Chicago Children’s Museum, Erikson Institute, Lego Foundation, Museum of Science and Industry, Thirty Million Words, University of Chicago-CEMSE and Yale University participated in advisory and planning sessions for the new space. The space was designed by Gensler Chicago.

The Cindy Pritzker Tribute Fund at the Chicago Public Library Foundation enabled CPL to begin designing these new early learning play spaces, which started with the construction of the Albany Park Branch in 2014. Additional investments in early learning spaces at the Library include support from longtime partners PNC and Chicago Public Library Foundation Life Director Dia Weil. In addition, the Gates Foundation funded design services for Thomas Hughes and The City of Chicago invested in staffing, collections and technology.