CPL Through the Years

Chicago Public Library's 150th AnniversaryChicago Public Library's 150th Anniversary

CPL turns 150 this year! Join us in celebrating 150 years of serving our communities.
CPL turns 150 this year! Join us in celebrating 150 years of serving our communities.
Circa 1870, Rendering of the old water tank.
1871, Book donation from Queen Victoria after the Great Fire.
1873, The Water Tank. One of the only places left to host the library after the Great Fire.
Circa 1897, the CPL Central Library on Michigan Ave.
Circa 1905, Central Library staff at work.

Browse more of CPL's Archives. Request an appointment to visit CPL's special collections and archives.

Date unknown, CPL book delivery wagons.
1926, Young people's room at Legler library.
Circa 1920s, hospital patients browsing CPL books.
Circa 1928, Staff at Ravenswood location.
1930s, Central Library reference room.
1932, opening day of George Cleveland Hall Branch.
1940, Toman Bohemian Room.
Circa 1940, Legler Regional Library's experimental trailer service, staff by two librarians.
Circa 1940s, hospital patients browsing CPL books.
Circa 1940s, Hall Branch staff.

Read more about CPL's history. View our CPL 150 blog posts.

Circa 1943, Books for Soldiers sign, Central Library.
1944, The "Traveling Branch," CPL's Bookmobile.
1950, Lake View Branch staff.
1952, Charlemae Hill Rollins, children's librarian at Hall Branch.
Circa 1960s, CPL staff on the CPL Traveling Branch.
1964, a CPL reading room in a Park District fieldhouse.
Circa 1960s, CPL's Traveling Branch.
Circa 1970, Central Library reference department.
1970s, Woodson Reference Desk.
1979, Cooking demo at Chinatown Branch.
Circa 1980, Small animal program at Hall Branch.
Circa 1980s to 1990s, researching the Harsh archives.
Circa 1980s to 1990s, researching the Harsh archives.
1984, the juvenile department at Woodson. So many books!
1990, construction for the Harold Washington Library Center.
Circa 1990, Cindy Pritzker during Harold Washington Library Center construction.
1989, children at the opening of Lozano Branch.
1990s, enjoying a summer reading program at Woodson.
1996, Bill Gates announces a $1 million gift of software and training to CPL.
1997, chess club at Lozano Branch.
2009, YOUmedia opens at Harold Washington Library Center
2013, a staff member works with a patron in the Maker Lab.
2015, Tony Hawk, guest author, OBOC 2015-2016 season.
2015, CPL receives the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
2016, Alice Waters, guest author, One Book, One Chicago 2016-2017 season
2017, story time at the redesigned Thomas Hughes Library Center.
2018, ChiTeen Lit Fest participants at Harold Washington Library Center.
2019, CPL opens its 81st location, the West Loop Branch.
2020, Barack and Michelle Obama in Live from the Library video series.
2022, young patrons celebrate getting their first library card.
2022, One Book, One Chicago 2022 season keynote with Art Spiegelman
2022, Club 81 launches, offering library cards to all CPS students.
Back to Top