10 great things about Chicago area libraries

River Forest Public LIbrary, originally uploaded by fitzgene.

April 13-19 is Library Week; have you visited your local branch lately? Libraries are not just for studying. Do you know about all the cool stuff you can do and see and try? Here are some reasons to visit the library:

1Chicago Public Library’s vast and comprehensive Web site. From chipub lib.org, you can search the entire collection, reserve materials, do research, and even get your kids help with their homework. All you need is a Chicago Public Library card. chipublib.org.

2 Edgewater’s Gerber/Hart Library, founded in 1981, has become the Midwest resource for records of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals and organizations, with more than 14,000 volumes, 800 periodical titles, and 100 archival collections. It also has monthly book groups: Next up is the men’s group, with a discussion of “Goldenboy,” by Michael Nava, on April 22. 1127 W. Granville Ave.; 773-381-8030, www.gerberhart.org.

3If you have a hankering to track down your Irish roots or are just curious about the history of Irish people on the South Side, visit the Beverly library’s Jule Conroy Irish Heritage Collection. 2121 W. 95th St; 312-747-9673.

4The River Forest Public Library, designed in the late 1920s by Prairie School architect William Eugene Drummond, is an attractive gem with lots of great features, including two working gas fireplaces at each end of the original building, flanked by comfy chairs for reading. All you need is a couple of wolfhounds to feel like the lord or lady of the manor. 735 Lathrop Ave., River Forest; 708-366-5205.

5Check out the hot apple surprise at the 10 South Coffee House in the Batavia Public Library. It’s like apple cider, but better! Plus, the library is full of great little areas where browsers can sit and read. 10 S. Batavia Ave., Batavia; 630-879-1393.

6If you’re a history buff—especially ancient Near East history—it might be worth your while to join the Oriental Institute. For $50 a year, you’ll get access to the Institute’s Research Archives, an ever-expanding collection of more than 45,000 volumes on all things ancient. You can’t check materials out, but the Elizabeth Morse Genius Reading Room makes staying in enjoyable—carved wood, painted ceiling, lotus windows and furnishings that date back to the Oriental Institute’s 1931 completion lend a historic vibe to your reading, whether you’re an archeology buff, researching a novel or just expanding your horizons. 1155 E. 58th St.; 773-702-9514.

7The Lozano CPL branch in Pilsen has a chess club—the “Knight Moves”—that meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m.; all ages and skill levels (even absolute beginners) are welcome. 1805 S. Loomis St.; 312-746-4329.

8Naturally we couldn’t leave out the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library. From the glass-domed Winter Garden to Thomas Hughes Children’s Library to the Steinway concert grand piano to the 700,000-plus-square-foot neoclassical building itself, this library—named for the city’s first African-American mayor—is always worth a trip. 400 S. State St.; 312-747-4300.

9The Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University, established in 1954, features periodicals in a variety of African languages, ancient Arabic manuscripts from Sudan, African exhibits, a collection of East African photographs ranging from the 16th to the 20th Centuries, and more. 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston; 847-467-3084.

10The kid-friendly Roosevelt branch of the CPL is packed with programs for children of all ages—family book parties, games, crafting events, after-school stories, all-ages story time and much, much more. Pick up a program at the library to see what’s coming up; pre-registration is required. 1101 W. Taylor St.; 312-746-5656.


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