Harold Washington Library Center
Municipal Reference Collection
The Municipal Reference Collection is a unique resource that serves as the first point of contact for information on Chicago ordinances, statistics, government, budgets and community areas.
Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Municipal Reference Collection Phone: (312) 747-4526
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Librarians are available to answer questions and assist with beginning and advanced research, including retrieving items from closed stacks.
Local Government Publications
The Chicago Public Library is an official repository for City of Chicago documents. Also in this collection are documents from other local taxing bodies in Chicago. The historical collection is quite extensive, with information on almost every aspect of municipal life in Chicago.
Materials in this collection include such documents as the coroner’s report on the Eastland passenger steamer disaster, the budget from the Mosquito Abatement District, City plans for the Grand Boulevard area, rules for food sanitation, proposals for a new Cook County Hospital, a list of streets paved in 1880, reports of the Landmark Commission on significant buildings in Chicago and vital statistics from the Department of Health.
An extensive collection of ordinances allows historical research into Chicago laws and related issues. Examples include government organization and history, railroad and freight tunnel alignment, reconfiguration of streets and boulevards, public works history and shoreline information.
Learn more about additional resources:
Agency and Organization Materials
Find historical collections, statistical reports, budgets and other documents from agencies including:
- Chicago Board of Education
- Chicago Board of Election Commissioners (election results and maps)
- Chicago City Council
- Chicago Department of Health (vital statistics)
- Chicago Department of Planning
- Chicago Department of Public Works
- Chicago Fire Department
- Chicago Housing Authority
- Chicago Park District and earlier agencies
- Chicago Police Department (crime statistics)
- Chicago Transit Authority
- Cook County Forest Preserve District
- Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
- Community organizations
The local newspaper clipping file, 1956-2011, contains more than a half million clippings that deal with almost every aspect of Chicago. Topics are as diverse as tuberculosis, visits to Chicago by President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the el system, name changes of prominent Chicago buildings, tow trucks, the postal service in Chicago and elections.
Community Area Information
Soldier Field and the Museum Campus. Source: Illinois Historical Aerial Photographs 1937-1947
An extensive community section of the clipping file complements a broad collection of current and historical descriptions, statistics and plans for Chicago communities. Community studies pamphlets and other information reinforce this segment of the collection.
The Municipal Reference Collection has a large and well-indexed collection of Chicago maps of various dates. Among the holdings are:
- 1939 land-use maps
- 1863 map of Cemetery (Lincoln) Park
- 1925 map of Goose Island
- Aerial photos of Englewood
The collection features Chicago election results by precinct and ward, dating back to 1886. Official precinct results from current elections are added to the collection upon their release. Coverage of each election and candidate may be located in the clipping file.
Municipal Finance and Organization
Find a comprehensive collection of budgets, financial statements, clippings and other financial information from the City of Chicago. This material is supplemented by ordinances, laws and explanations of governmental functions.