Chicago Public Library Wins Chicago Innovation Award for Maker Lab

Chicago Public Library has been named one of the winners of the 12th annual Chicago Innovation Awards. Nominated for its experimental Maker Lab in the Harold Washington Library Center, the Library was announced as one of the award winners at an event held at Chicago’s Harris Theater on Wednesday, October 30, with nearly 1,500 business and civic leaders attending. The Chicago Innovation Awards, celebrating its 12th year, is the Chicago region’s foremost recognition of the most innovative new products or services brought to market or to public service each year.

As the first free public maker space in Chicago, the Library’s Maker Lab offers patrons an introduction to the latest technology and equipment that are enabling new forms of personal manufacturing and business opportunities. Made possible with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the Lab offers both instructional workshops and open lab hours in which the public can work with staff members to master new software and create personal projects. The space offers access to a variety of 3D software and equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, as well as a milling machine and vinyl cutter.

“In our 21st century economy, you earn what you learn and at the Harold Washington Library Maker’s Lab, students and residents are provided the opportunity to learn and innovate in the first free public maker space in Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This award embodies the efforts of the Chicago Public Library in extending digital learning and discovery to our most vital resource, Chicago’s youth.”

“Chicago is an innovation hub with talented leaders who aren’t afraid to be bold, be confident and try new approaches,” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards. “Every winner of the Chicago Innovation Awards embodies this mindset, and each one has an inspiring story of achievement and vision.”

“Libraries across the globe are looking for ways to expand the public’s access to 21st century ideas and information and CPL is leading that charge,” said Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “I am honored that Chicago Public Library’s Maker Lab was recognized by such a prestigious organization. What wonderful validation for our first experiment in our Innovation Lab.”

Included in the award prize is the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ bell in New York City, a profile in Crain’s Chicago Business, and a three-day business and innovation training seminar at the Disney Institute in Orlando, with tuition and accommodations included.

“When you consider the impact of the innovations developed by the award winners, the depth and the quality of the more than 500 nominees, and the sheer volume of Chicagoland businesses that have created this wave of momentum and success, it is clear that Chicago is a respected global center of innovation,” said Luke Tanen, Executive Director, Chicago Innovation Awards.

There were a record-high 562 nominees for this year’s Chicago Innovation Awards—up from 390 last year. These nominees cut across all industries, sizes and sectors in the Chicago region.

The complete list of this year’s Chicago Innovation Award winners can be found at

The Chicago Innovation Awards are supported by Gold Sponsors Hillshire Brands, Comcast Business and Disney Institute; Silver Sponsors Dell, SMS Assist, Wintrust Financial, Vedder Price, Brinks, Gilson and Leone, Edelman, SmithBucklin and others.