It’s a place I frequented as a child and as a teenager to check out and read entire collections of books, and where I found new music when I couldn’t afford to purchase a zillion CDs. The library. I even rented some movies years ago when the library started carrying VHS. It was free (as long as you returned things on time) and it was wonderful. Then the library and I seemed to part ways. We didn’t argue, we didn’t fight…I didn’t owe any money, and — much to my surprise — I didn’t find a book years later lodged between the seat cushions of my couch. We just ended our affair for no real apparent reason. Some book club came along that offered 10 books for 99 cents to start and promised books for $3.99. The next thing I knew my book collection began to grow faster than I could read — and so did my need for more and more shelves to hold them.

All was fine and dandy until the onset  of the financial crisis that has forced so many of us to find new ways to curb our spending. With everything from eating out to cable stripped down to the bare minimum, the idea of a good read for $9.99 seems like such antiquated thinking. While driving down the street the other day, I just happened to glance over at the right moment to see a Chicago Public Library sign; it was so much more than a light bulb appearing above my head. It was as if the clouds parted, the sun rained down on my brain and a choir of angels filled my ears. Of course, the library! My long lost love. Where have you been all these years? What exactly happened to us? I don’t know…I don’t remember…and I don’t care! I’m just excited that fate has brought us together again!

Within minutes after filling out a simple application and showing my driver’s license, I had a library card. With the ability to check out up to 30 items including DVDs after the first 30 days (only 5 items the first 30 days of being a new card-holder) as well as the ability to keep DVDs for 7 days and other items for 3 weeks — how can you say no? It’s FREE. Did I mention it’s FREE?

Great Things I Learned on my First Visit:

Museum Passes

You can check out a pass to a host of Chicago museums and get free admission for up to four people! Sure, you still have to pay for parking if you choose to drive, but this pass will get you in for FREE. It’s on a first come first serve basis, but you can keep the pass for seven days. Passes are available for:  The Field Museum, Art Institute, Botanic Garden, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, DuSable Museum of African American History, Museum of Science & Industry, Brookfield Zoo, Nature Museum, Children’s Museum and the National Museum of Mexican Art. I could’ve saved approximately $800 over the last couple of years if I would’ve known about these FREE passes.

Interlibrary Loan Service

When you want to check out an item not owned by the Chicago Public Library (CPL), you can. I did a double take and asked the nice gentleman helping me to repeat what he had just said. That’s right — you can borrow a title not found in CPL’s collection and have it sent to a CPL location for you. You can request books, articles, educational audiovisual materials or microfilm reels. So there’s no reason to get discouraged if you can’t find a specific book.

Clubs, Classes & Workshops

With an outstanding book club that offers all kinds of programs and discussions on two books a year, ‘One Book, One Chicago’ has been going strong for 10 years. CPL is also a great resource for other book clubs not associated with CPL. I was shocked to learn about the various classes, lectures and workshops such as ‘Email Basics for Gmail’ or ‘Money Smart: Investing 101’ and the visual and performance events held at the various branch locations. AND small group classes and one-on-one sessions all about computer, internet and email basics are held through the CyberNAVIGATORS program at 43 library locations throughout the city.

Services for Older Adults & People with Disabilities

  • The Harold Washington Library Center has Telesensory Magnifiers as well as the largest collection of large print books (smaller collections are also available at many of the other branches). Available at other branches too, a Telesensory Magnifier is a television terminal that magnifies reading, writing and other materials up to 45 times the original size. This enables patrons to read mail or newspapers, write checks or letters as well as enjoy photographs.
  • For those not able to physically read anymore due to visual or physical limitations, the library offers the Talking Book Center, playaways and digitalaudiobooks. The Talking Book Center allows those who qualify access to nearly 80,000 audio, digital and Braille titles, magazines and descriptive videos that can be mailed directly to your home. A playaway is a self-contained digital audiobook and audiobook player. Playaways come preloaded with one book and run on one AAA battery (earbuds and battery provided).
  • Woodson Regional Library has a videophone with video relay service for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The videophone enables videophone users to sign to an American Sign Language interpreter who then speaks to a phone user on the other end of the line.

With such a huge selection of books, articles, magazines, movies, music and even ebooks on digital readers and free access to the internet… I struggle to understand why I stopped going to the library in the first place, and I am trying not to think about the vacation I could’ve taken with all the money I would have saved.

Fall in love with the Library again. Your mind and your wallet will thank you.

For more info: http://www.chipublib.org/

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living