HW Public Library: 1st Floor - Jackson Street
The Harold Washington Library Center is like no other library around. One could easily think they had entered a Mall, instead of a Library. Large and open, the ground floor contains a large Information Desk just in front of the Centrally Located Escalator that allows progress up to the other floors. To one side is the "Second Hand Prose" bookstore, and on the other is "Media Express", the audio/video section of the library. Both look more like the stores you would find in a mall, everything pointed out with a wealth of Large, easily discernible signage.
Lower Level………Auditorium, Main Exhibit Hall, Multipurpose Rooms,
Video Theater, Corp. And Private events
1st Floor***Information Desk, Secondhand Prose, Media Express.
2nd Floor………..Thomas Hughes Children's Library.
3rd Floor………..Newspapers, Periodicals, Circulation, Inter-library loan,
Library Card/Voter Registration Forms
4th Floor………..Business/Science/Technology, Electronic Resources,
5th Floor………..Government Publications, Talking Book Center,
6th Floor………..Social Sciences, Education/Philosophy/History,
Teacher Resource Center, Preternatural Sciences
7th Floor………..Literature/Language, Chicago Authors Room.
8th Floor………..Visual/Performing Arts, Listening/Viewing Center,
Music Practice Rooms
9th Floor………..Special Collections Exhibit Hall, Preservation,
Harold Washington Archives and Collection, Winter Garden.
The entire place is a riot of color, madness and Mayhem. Stations throughout the space dedicated to those of a smaller status, comfortable chairs and places to stretch out and enjoy the wonders of reading, all scaled to children. Colorful posters abound to catch one's attention, helping to identify the various subjects one can read about.
18,000 square feet of space is filled to the brim with more than 120,000 volumes. The books include picture books, easy readers, classics, contemporary fiction, informational books, science project books, large print books, reference materials for research projects, books representing 40 foreign languages, special collections of award-winning books, popular paperbacks, and a small parenting collection as well as over 70 subscriptions to children's periodicals.
Stark and clean; these are two words that describe this more-than-efficient use of space. Newspapers are held in reading racks along one wall with several offering various popular magazines, in addition to those scattered throughout the comfortable reading area. A table with Voter Registration forms, as well as applications for library cards, are on a table near the escalator. Row after row of microfiche machines and storage cabinets house the archives of past issues of periodicals, with computer terminals and fiche displays close at hand. A desk on the other side of escalator has a sign over it marked "Inter-library Loan", and is where one may inquire about getting any materials the library may not actually have at present.
Calm, pale blue tones wash all the walls, the earthen tone carpeting helping to lend a business like atmosphere to this floor. It is only appropriate, consdering the sign says "Business/Science/Technology Center." Cubicles fill about half of the space of this open room, allowing access to the libraries intranet records and listings of businesses. Periodicals, financial reports, Career listings, anything and everything about business is here, all in one place, even the unemployed can find a home in this wealth of material as one entire section is labeled "Job Hunters".
This room almost looks like a war room of some sort. Maps abound on every wall, historical maps, current maps, geological maps, climatic maps, anything and everything you could ever want. But that is hardly all that is here. On this floor is a collection of nearly every document ever created by the City of Chicago, a vast collection of State, County and even National documents, boasting over 200,00 documents just on the national level.
There are none of the computer terminals to index these documents, but rather an array of specialty indexes are available, the government documents not being included within any of the other indexes. Staff is, however, available to help with any inquiries on how to use the MoCal, PRF, ASI, CIS, or even the SUDOC, all of which index the literally millions of documents in this room. A casual question as to how the library can have so many of the documents of the government will no doubt reveal that the library is a US Government Printing Office depository since 1876.
It is here, in the social sciences division, that many of those studying the creatures of legend come to learn more. This section of the library once housed thousands and thousands of volumes of dissertations on educations, Philosophy, History, anthropology, just about any known field of Social Science. It still holds a great deal, but nearly half of the library, as all the atlas have now been moved downstairs, is taken up with the more unusual subjects of recent days.
The "Preternatural Division" houses an array of journals and dissertations regarding thousands of species of creatures; Vampires and Werewolves are listed, as are Trolls, Faeries, Lake Monsters, Dragons, Gargoyles, and hundreds, with the fact that there are still shelves waiting to be filled showing that the library is constantly growing as they sift through the many documents available to them, finding what are good (the Spates Catalog, the Tobin Spirit Guide, the Roylance Guide, Leon Zundinger's "Magicians, Martyrs and Madmen" ) and what are trash. Those seeking periodicals are, however, advised to return to the 5th floor, where all periodicals are maintained for the Social and Preternatural Sciences.
Artwork adorns the walls, showing a vast array of eclectic, and international style, much like the contents of Literature and Language Division. Books can be read in over 200 worldwide languages, with dictionaries and many various translation tools to help in doing research. Reading areas abound with soft, comfortable chairs, and a separated section, walled off with glass walls, contains the Chicago Authors Room, a collection of works from all of the greatest, and some not so great but rather obscure, published authors from the Second City.
One of the most varied and extensive collections of nearly every form of Visual and Performing art sprawls about you. From the Jubilee Showcase Archives, a collection of over 100 videos representing a who's who of Black gospel to music, to the Chicago Blues Archives, includes documents, photos, recordings, videos, magazines, and manuscripts relating to the music of the blues, the collections encompass the wealth of art and music in the city, including also collections about Architecture, dance, theater, painting, and scores for nearly every known major piece of music in any language.
It is here that the archives of the city of Chicago are best preserved. The archives date back to the foundation of the Library in 1871, from just after the Great Chicago Fire, and include the collections of: Neighborhood History, Chicago Theater, World's Columbian Exposition, and the Harold Washington Archives.
Of course, surrounding one after getting off the escalator is the Special exhibition hall, containing "Called to the Challenge", detailing the career of one Chicago's best loved mayors, and the man for whom the building is named.