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Chicago Public Library

From Academic Kids

The Chicago Public Library consists of 79 branches throughout the city of Chicago.

History

In the aftermath of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, Londoners A.H. Burgess, with the aid of Thomas Hughes drew up what would be called the "English Book Donation," which proposed that England should provide a free library to the burned out city. After circulating requests for donations throughout English society, the project donated 8,000 books. Private donors included Queen Victoria, Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin and Matthew Arnold.

In Chicago, city leaders petitioned Mayor Joseph Medill to hold a meeting and establish the library. The meeting led to the Illinois Library Act of 1872, which allowed Illinois cities to establish tax-supported libraries. In April 1872, the City Council passed an ordinance establishing the Chicago Public Library, and on January 1, 1873, the Chicago Public Library officially opened its doors in an abandoned iron water tank at LaSalle and Adams Streets. The collection included 3,157 volumes.

The water tank was 58 feet in diameter, 21 feet high and with a 30 foot foundation. A two story office building was soon built around it to hold city offices, and a third floor reading room was built for the library.

On October 24, 1873, William Frederick Poole was elected the first head librarian by the library's Board of Directors. Poole was mainly concerned during his tenure on buidling the circulation. In 1874, circulation services began with 13,000 out of 17,533 available for lending.

In 1887, Poole resigned to organize the Newberry Library of Chicago.

The library moved from place to place during its first 24 years. Eleven years it spent on the fourth floor of city hall. On October 15, 1887, Frederick H. Hild was elected the second Librarian of the Chicago Public Library, and securing a permanent home was his primary drive.

Ten years later, the Central Library was opened in Dearborn Park on Michigan Avenue between Washington Street and Randolph Street. The library would remain on this site for the next 96 years.

In 1974, the Board of Directors authorized an $11 million renovation of the Central Library.

On July 29, 1987, Mayor Harold Washington and the Chicago City Council authorized a design and construction competition for a new, one-and-a-half block $144 million library at 400 South State Street.

In 1991, the Harold Washington Library Center opened to the public.

References

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