Thursday, January 11, 2007

Harold Washington Chicago Public Library Visit

On January 3rd our class visited the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library. This is one BIG library. I was so amazed on how large this place really was. The HWCL has a total of 10 floors, this including the lower floor. Here is a break down of the floors:

Lower Floor- Meeting Rooms
1st- Information Desk and Popular Library
2nd- Thomas Hughes Children's Library
3rd- Public Computer Area and Circulation Desk
4th- Business/Science/Technology Center
5th- Government Publications Department and The Talking Book Center
6th- Social Sciences and History Department
7th- Literature and Language Department
8th- Music Rooms and Visual and Performing Arts Department
9th- Coorporate and Private Events (Winter Garden), Special Collections, and Exhibits

I also have found some interesting facts about this library that can help one to visualize how large this library is:

  • 756,000 Square Feet

  • 70.85 miles of shelving

  • 374,073 linear feet of shelving (Linear feet is just the straight distance from point A to B)

  • Opened on October 7th 1991

  • Appeared in The Guinness Book of World Records as the largest public library building in the world

  • The roof of the building has ornaments in each corner of the building they include and owl and seed pods which are symbolic of the natural bounty of the Midwest

Here is the Harold Washington Chicago Library Website CHECK IT OUT!

Chicago Public Library – Tour

Bright and early, around 8 o’clock in the morning, most of our class met at the train station in Elmhurst to begin our journey into Chicago. We arrived at around 9:30 and met at the great circle at the Chicago Public Library. My first reaction, along with some other students as well, was that we were inside a government office building. The place was huge, and did not look like a library at all.

I was a bit surprised by the first thing we were shown, the auditorium. It’s not the type of area you would expect in a library, but it did sound very useful at the same time. It was extremely beautiful, and could obviously hold a lot of people for whatever type of meeting, speech, or lecture that space was needed for.

As for the rest of the library, it was equally as impressive in size. Each and every floor had it’s own unique section, making it very easy to do research as long as you had an idea of what you were looking for. If not, there were plenty of people around to ask that could direct you to where you needed to be.

The d├ęcor, though, was unfortunately not as impressive as the massive size. The colors were very dull and although the artwork was interesting, there just wasn’t enough of it to be awestruck. However, it isn’t an art museum, it is a library. Many people don’t go there to admire artwork, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I was a little surprised by some of the things Greta told us while I was asking questions. I must admit, I was expecting a much bigger homeless problem since it is located in the city. I was also surprised that when asked about vandalism, she said it wasn’t really a problem at all. Once again, being that it was located in the city, I was expecting it to be more of a problem.

Overall though, it was a pretty good tour, and I got a good feel for the library. I feel like I could go there today and have no problem finding what I needed (after looking at the directory again, of course). I was very impressed by the massive collection and size of the place. Who ever knew libraries so large existed? I certainly didn’t before this class.


kaia p. said...

wow, having all of those statistics in one place, reminds of how awesome the Harold Washington is! It is such a wealth of information and a great resource for chicago. I am still very impressed and awed by its size not only physicaly, but its collections as well.

Liz said...

I felt the same way about the library in terms of first impressions. I was wondering where all of the books were! I think that this was a good visit for us to take more in the beginning of the class, because we were exposed to a different type/look of library right away. I did, however feel pretty overwhelmed by the vastness of the library. If I ever went to the Harold Washington to do research, I would start with asking a reference librarian for some help and direction.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Like many other students, I feel that the Harold Washington Library is extremely large and difficult to take in at one time. It would definitely take me some time to become accustomed to using that library for research or leisure, due to the different floors and vast collections. The Popular Library is an excellent idea for people who want to make a quick stop for something to read, and it definitely evokes an in-and-out feeling. I enjoyed seeing the dollhouse in the children’s library; it is a great display to point kids toward if they become bored or tired in the library. I was thoroughly amazed by the different floors of the library, as each one seems to be dedicated to a different subject area. I also liked learning about the hearing-impaired services, and found the artist books beautiful. Overall, the Harold Washington Library is unlike any other library I have seen, and it is difficult to imagine using such an immense library all the time.

David B. said...

I was absolutely amazed with this library. To have one library cover all the bases like the harold washington does. It was so extensive that they even had practice rooms for people to play their instruments!

Aras said...

Going through all of the floors of the Harold Washington was overwhelming. I was very surprised at all of the different areas that each floor covered. I was especially surprised that they had a listening studio where people could listen to various sounds on the computers that were available as well as use the piano located in that room. I was impressed that they had a lot of special equipment for people with disabilities such as the audio books.

Monica.S and Katie.R said...

I was soo glad to be with everyone else on the tour. I don't know if I would go there on my own (with my sense of direction, I might never find my way out!). But seriously, it's an impressive library. I'm not surprised that it's the largest public library in the world. I liked the children's library the best, especially the dollhouse.

Kiley A said...

I definitely have to agree with you on this library, it was not what I expected a typical library to be like. It seemed too much like a museum to me and it was so large it was overwhelming....but it was very beautiful!