Municipal Reference Collection

About Us

Reference help is available on the 4th floor of Harold Washington Library Center. 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.

Contact Us


The Municipal Reference Collection is open when Harold Washington Library Center is open:

  • Monday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; after 5 p.m. reference help is available on the 4th floor
  • Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; after 5 p.m. reference help is available on the 4th floor
  • Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Areas of Interest

Local Government Publications

Chicago Public Library is an official repository for City of Chicago documents. The Municipal Reference Collection also maintains documents from other local taxing bodies in Chicago. The historical collection is extensive, and you can find information on almost every aspect of municipal life in Chicago. We have most city documents published since the mid-1800s.

The collection includes such documents as the coroner's report on the Eastland Disaster, the Mosquito Abatement District's Annual Reports, 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, a report on Open Air Schools and reports of the Landmarks Commission on significant buildings in Chicago.

We have historical and current annual reports, statistical reports, budgets and other documents from agencies such as:

Municipal Ordinances

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.


Our large and well-indexed collection of Chicago maps of various dates includes examples such as 1939 Land Use Maps, an 1863 map of Cemetery (Lincoln) Park, aerial photos of Englewood, and 1990s maps of mortgage defaults and poverty rates in Chicago.

Election Results

View Chicago election results back to 1886 by precinct and ward. Official precinct results are added upon release. The clipping file also has coverage of each election and candidate.

Municipal Finance and Organization

Find budgets, financial statements, clippings and other financial information from Chicago and other major local governments. Ordinances, laws and explanations of governmental functions supplement this material.

Clipping File

The file contains 500,000 clippings from about 40 community newspapers. The date range is 1956 to 2011. The clippings deal with almost every aspect of Chicago. Topics are as diverse as tuberculosis, Halsted Street, visits to Chicago by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the elevated system, name changes of prominent Chicago buildings, the postal service, tow trucks and elections.

Using the Municipal Reference Collection

Given the special nature of the Municipal Reference Collection, all materials are for use in the library only. We ask you to conform to security and handling precautions:

  • Use materials only on the 5th floor.
  • Scanning or making copies is not permitted for items that are over 50 years old and/or in poor condition. You may take photos of materials that are too old or fragile to be scanned.

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