For Immediate Release
Maggie Killackey Jurgensen
Chicago Public Library
HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY CENTER HONORED BY THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS
Chicago’s Central Library ranks 85th in Americans’ 150 Favorite Works of Architecture
February 9, 2007
The Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in a listing of America’s Favorite Architecture. The public poll was recently conducted in celebration of the American Institute of Architects’ 150th Anniversary.
Administered by Harris Interactive and the American Institute of Architects, more than 1,800 randomly selected Americans ranked their favorite works of architecture from a group pre-selected by the AIA. Selections included famous homes, public buildings, sports arenas, transportation hubs and office buildings. Nearly one-half of the projects in America’s Favorite Architecture are in three cities: New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center is ranked number 85 on a list of Favorite 150 works of Architecture. In all, 16 Chicago landmarks were honored, however, the Harold Washington Library Center is the only city-funded building selected.
The Harold Washington Library Center is a grand, neo-classical building with columns, arches and vaulted ceilings influenced by ancient Greek and Roman structures. Designed in 1988 by Thomas H. Beeby and the firm Hammond, Beeby and Babka, the 756,640 square feet library opened October 7, 1991, and appeared in The Guinness Book of Records as the largest public library building in the world.
The Harold Washington Library Center has five story arched windows on three sides of the building set in red brick walls. These windows are linked together by cast stone ornamentation. In 1993, seven ornaments were added to the roof. They are placed on each of the four corners, as well as in the centers of the State, Congress, and Van Buren sides of the library. The State Street ornament is a 3½ ton, 20 feet tall sculpture of a Great Horned Owl, a universal symbol of knowledge and wisdom.
The Congress and Van Buren ornaments incorporate seed pods, which are symbolic of life and the potential for growth inside everyone. The ornamentation at each of the four corners is a Barn Owl perched in foliage. “The Chicago Public Library has always been a community center where all Chicagoans are welcomed,” commented Commissioner Mary Dempsey. “To have the Harold Washington Library Center in the prestigious company of the Lincoln Memorial, Empire State Building and the White House is a testament to the Chicago Public Library’s position as the people’s university.”
Those interested in touring the Harold Washington Library Center can take advantage of complementary materials available at the first floor information desk, highlighting the building’s architectural features and public art on display. Visitors are welcome to explore the library at their own pace and take advantage of all the free services the Harold Washington Library Center has to offer. A self guided tour is also available on the Library’s website at www.chicagopubliclibrary.org.
Reinforcing its commitment to serve all patrons, weekday hours at the Harold Washington Library Center, were recently extended. Hours of operation are now: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The additional hours will enable students who attend school and live in the burgeoning South Loop neighborhood, or patrons who work, live or visit Chicago’s Loop and downtown area, to take advantage of the Library’s free resources and materials late in the evening.
In 2004, the Harold Washington Library Center (as well as all other Chicago Public Library branches) introduced free WiFi service. With a personal WiFi enabled laptop computer, patrons have free wireless access to the Internet, as well as the Library’s computerized catalog and rich collection of databases.
The Harold Washington Library Center is one of the City’s premier literary venues. During 2006, the Library hosted a series of free public programs and discussions with renowned authors including John Updike, Jhumpa Lahiri, Frank Rich, Mary Gordon, Edward P. Jones, David Mamet and Nora Ephron. In addition, the Library currently hosts book discussion groups in English, Spanish, Russian, German, Korean and Polish in libraries throughout the city.
Additional services and resources available at the Harold Washington Library Center include:
The Computer Commons at the Harold Washington Library Center provides 78 free Internet stations, which may be used for two, 1-hour sessions per day; 2 Find It! stations, 18 express stations, where patrons may access the Internet for a fifteen-minute session; and 37 Word Processing stations, which may be used for a one-hour session.
The Special Collections and Preservation Division, houses antique books, pamphlets, photographs, artifacts, precious art work, and archival materials on the Civil War, Chicago Theater, 1893 and 1933 World’s Fairs, Chicago Neighborhood history, Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago authors and publishing, and the Chicago Public Library Archives. One Book, Many Interpretations is a special exhibit currently on display, celebrating the first ten One Book, One Chicago selections interpreted through artistic bookbinding.
The Business Science and Technology Division offers a comprehensive selection of materials to research: careers, corporations, patents and trademarks, personal finance and much more. Additional services provided in Business Science and Technology include: 1,400 company and industry directories to identify and locate businesses, available resources to conduct searches for U.S. patents dating back to 1790, and access to specialized business, science and technology databases, microfilm and Internet websites.
The Literature and Language Division offers a diverse selection of fiction, drama, poetry, selections on writing, journalism, language and linguistics, literary biographies, literary history, public speaking, the publishing industry and more. Bibliographies that highlight popular materials are also available. Literature and Language also provides access to materials in more then 200 world languages including microfilm, circulating books, periodicals and reference materials.
The reference collection in the Social Science and History Division offers research materials in history, education, sociology, information science, philosophy, religion, psychology, political science, genealogy, travel and much more. Resources on foundations, grants, and grant proposals are also available, and the Government Publications Department holds nearly 2,000,000 research and reference documents from governmental agencies including the Federal Government, State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Cook County.
The Visual and Performing Arts Division consists of the Art Information Center and Music Information Center and features an extensive collection of books, periodicals, pictures, pamphlets, videos, recordings, musical scores and more. Visual and Performing Arts holds several special archives including the Chicago Artists’ Archives, the Balaban and Katz Theater Orchestra Collection, the Chicago Blues Archives, and the Henry Dreyfuss Archives. Librarians are available to assist in the selection of materials and to answer questions.
The Chicago Public Library is comprised of the Harold Washington Library Center, two regional libraries and 76 neighborhood branches. Chicago Public Library offers a rich resource of books, DVDs, audio books and more, provides free access to the Internet and WiFi in all of its locations, as well as free public programs for children, teens and adults. A Chicago Public Library card is required to use library computers. If you live in Chicago and do not have a valid library card, a free card can be issued at the Circulation Desk with proper photo and address identification.
The Harold Washington Library Center, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library and Conrad Sulzer Regional Library are open 7 days a week, the remaining 76 branch libraries are open 6 days a week and patrons can access all of the libraries’ collections online 24 hours a day. For more information, please visit the website at chicagopubliclibrary.org, or call the Chicago Public Library Press Office at (312) 747-4050.