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“The library says to so many what it has always said to me: Welcome home.”

–Dr. Eve. L. Ewing, 2019 21st Century Award honoree

Strategy In Action

Broadening reach, deepening impact

“The library says to so many what it has always said to me: Welcome home.”

–Dr. Eve L Ewing, 2019 21st Century Award honoree

For nearly 150 years, Chicago Public Library’s 81 branches have delivered trusted information, community connection, and lifelong learning opportunities to Chicagoans in every neighborhood. In March 2020, when branch doors temporarily closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, patrons from Roger’s Park to Hegewisch felt the loss. By June, the branches reopened, and the need for virtual programming was more urgent than ever.

Donors and champions like you ensured that librarians had the support they needed to quickly move content online, reimagine programs for virtual platforms, and develop new ways of meeting Chicagoans where they are. Today, our Library is home to a robust suite of exceptional free virtual learning tools and creative content for every age group. From new offerings like Live from the Library to signature programs such as One Book, One Chicago, patrons of all ages can now access Library resources and programming anytime and anywhere.

2020 pushed us all to think creatively, adapt to change, and find moments of joy amid deep uncertainty. Together with our donors, the Chicago Public Library Foundation amplified the Library’s potential and paved the way for our city to do what it does best—emerge from a crisis stronger than before. Read on to see what your support made possible in 2020.

In 2020, we amplified Chicago Public Library’s citywide impact through responsive support, connected meaningfully with our community, and more fully infused our work with the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

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2 staff planning retreats

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160 respondents to 3 donor surveys

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2,800 virtual Library Foundation Awards attendees

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4 upcoming facilitated sessions with DEIB firm Ethos Talent

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15 virtual patron interviews

As our strategic work evolves, our dedication to delivering equitable access to lifelong learning resources remains our constant North Star. The Chicago Public Library Foundation invites donors at all levels to invest in a suite of responses—encompassing both new initiatives and proven program models—that respond to these ongoing needs in our city. This flexible approach allows us to effectively leverage the Library’s unparalleled resources in the service of all Chicagoans.

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By The Numbers

Our donors activate real change. In 2020, private investment transformed thousands of lives for the better.

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Free virtual activities for Chicagoans of all ages
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Grab-and-Go Kits delivered to kids, teens, and adults

Your Support Opens The Doors of Opportunity & Access

The Chicago Public Library Foundation takes an impact-driven approach to defining our investment in the Library. The priorities detailed below were identified as part of the Library Foundation’s comprehensive 2019 strategic planning process and align with the Library’s own strategy work.

Through these priorities, we invite philanthropic partners to invest in a suite of responses—encompassing both new initiatives and proven program models—that respond to persistent challenges in our city. This flexible approach allows us to effectively leverage the Library’s unparalleled resources in the service of our community.

Close The Academic Opportunity Gap

Studies suggest the COVID Slide—the loss of learning due to school closures and the transition to remote instruction—will have significant, lasting impacts on student achievement in reading and math. The effects are particularly acute for low-income students and students of color, who may lack access to consistent in-home wi-fi and adult supervision during the school day. Our city must embrace new ways to meet these challenges and provide accessible, equitable learning opportunities to families citywide.

The following donor-powered programs leverage our Library’s citywide footprint, vast free resources, and commitment to lifelong learning to help ensure that all our city’s children have the support they need to succeed early in life—and to keep succeeding.

The Chicago Public Library Foundation takes an impact-driven approach to defining our investment in the Library. The priorities detailed below were identified as part of the Library Foundation’s comprehensive 2019 strategic planning process and align with the Library’s own strategy work.

Through these priorities, we invite philanthropic partners to invest in a suite of responses—encompassing both new initiatives and proven program models—that respond to persistent challenges in our city. This flexible approach allows us to effectively leverage the Library’s unparalleled resources in the service of our community.

Early Learning

Children’s earliest learning experiences form a crucial foundation for school readiness and longterm success. Private investment helps give parents and caregivers the tools they need to engage their children’s minds—and ensures that Children’s Services librarians stay up to date on the latest in early learning practices.

  • “CME Group Foundation is proud to support the Library’s efforts to close the opportunity gap for our youngest learners. The Library’s holistic, system-wide initiative for young children and their caregivers provides families with access to high-quality literacy and learning programming; research-informed early learning spaces; and outreach efforts that actively build community. We applaud the Library’s efforts to ensure every Chicago family has access to the free early learning resources they need to set their children up for success.”
  • – Kassie Davis, Executive Director of CME Group Foundation

ScienceConnections

STEAM skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and technology literacy are crucial to navigating the 21st century. That’s why we support ScienceConnections—the Library’s series of Grab and Go kits and STEAM programming taught by subject experts from the Museum of Science & Industry and other partners.

  • “So far, my kids have learned about flight, aerodynamics, light, and architectural principles through ScienceConnections programs. But, more importantly, the programs engage their curiosity and help them learn through investigation.”
  • – Parent, Thurgood Marshall branch

Live from the Library

Our newest program, Live from the Library, features regular live-streamed storybook readings with Chicago champions such as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Dolly Parton, and, of course, our beloved children’s librarians. Tune in on Facebook Live or check out the full archive today!

  • “Live from the Library represents a critical resource for children and families in our communities. I’m grateful to the librarians and notable Chicagoans who have taken the time to promote literacy and put a smile on our children’s faces.”
  • – Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Virtual Teacher in the Library

High-quality, accessible homework help is more critical than ever before. In fall 2020, we helped pilot and launch an online version of the beloved Teacher in the Library program so students can connect with accredited educators via Zoom. Our Teachers work closely with branch librarians to help students complete assignments, build strong study skills, and find Library resources. The program will continue to scale in 2021 so that every student in Chicago can safely access the learning support they need.

  • “It is a great weight lifted off our shoulders, knowing that we’re not doing it alone and that there are subject experts who can give the kids the academic guidance they need.”
  • – Rosa, parent, Albany Park branch

Summer Learning Challenge

Every summer, the Library empowers kids across Chicago to make the most of their break with themed activities for the whole family. In a year like no other, “Building Stories” invited children to discover their city by exploring the urban architecture and design all around them through virtual programming, Grab and Go kits, and beautifully designed Explorer’s Guides. We also launched the new Family Learning Partnerships Fund to support collaborations with partners such as the Children’s Museum of Chicago and Working in the Schools (WITS)—activating our Library branches to get more excellent learning content to even more families!

  • “This year’s Summer Learning Challenge was the best. The Library helped me keep my family learning and having fun during this difficult time. ”
  • – Parent, South Chicago branch

Activate Connection
& Creativity For All

Creative expression is a human right. But the cost of cultural programming and 21st-century creative tools is out of reach for far too many Chicagoans. Chicago Public Library invites every member of our community to explore new ways of expressing themselves and imagining new possibilities not only for their own lives—but also for our city and the world.

The following programs empower Chicagoans of all ages with inspiring ideas, cutting-edge creative tools, and the guidance they need to create something new.

YOUmedia

YOUmedia serves as a crucial third space between school and home. Each year, thousands of middle and high school teens explore their interests and build social capital through programming that connects to the Library’s unparalleled creative resources. With a quick pivot to the digital space, 2020 highlights included virtual librarian-facilitated conversations about relationships, leadership, finances, and job readiness; Radical Fit, an eight-month series of fashion-making events with a focus on gender identity and equity; and the 5th annual ChiTeen Lit Fest, which reached more than 200 participants.

  • ““I am so glad that there are opportunities for teens like us to use our art to share our perspectives.”
  • – Cielo, YOUmedia participant

One Book, One Chicago

One Book, One Chicago inspires citywide conversations. Activated by private investment, the 2020 season presented more than 100 virtual programs linked by Mohsin Hamid’s fantastical migration tale, Exit West. One Book, One Chicago invited Chicagoans to engage with migration’s impact on our personal and collective history through neighborhood tours, cooking tutorials, book club discussions, and much more.

  • “The virtual Neighborhoods Beyond Borders programming is great. Thank you for your hard work to make these beautiful mini-documentaries”
  • – Young P., Virtual program participant

Maker Lab

With the Library’s virtual Maker Lab programming, inspiration is just a click away. Maker Lab librarians lead step-by-step tutorials for projects both practical and fantastical. From personal protective equipment to 3D printed mythical monsters, Chicago makers of all experience levels were invited to design something new. They were even able to pick up their creations from their local neighborhood branch!

  • ““I inherited a sewing machine from my grandmother but never knew how to use it. The specialists at the Maker Lab taught me the basics, and now I have the skills to explore more projects at home.”
  • – Patron

Bridge the Digital Divide

With online learning, telehealth, and remote employment on the rise, Internet access and digital literacy are more vital today than ever before. Yet, 40% of lower-income households in the U.S. are without home broadband services or a traditional computer. Many adults and older adults also lack the skills they need to effectively and safely navigate our increasingly digital world. The Library Foundation is committed to bridging this skill and resource gap—known as the digital divide—through free and user-friendly Chicago DigitalLearn digital literacy modules accessible from any computer.

Together, we transform lives through technology.

Chicago DigitalLearn

Chicago DigitalLearn is an online learning platform designed to help adult learners build crucial digital literacy skills and navigate employment databases such as Illinois WorkNet. To accommodate patrons’ busy lives, DigitalLearn lessons are available on-demand, 24/7. Since its launch in 2014, 25,000 people have enjoyed DigitalLearn, with 95% regularly returning to learn more.

  • “Thanks to Chicago DigitalLearn, I’m gaining the confidence to use technology for my job search and in other areas in my life.”
  • – Chicago DigitalLearn Patron

Events

Each year, the Chicago Public Library Foundation honors the artists who bring great stories to life—those who challenge us, inspire us, and help us see the world in ways we never knew possible. In December, more than 2,500 Library lovers around the country joined us for the very first virtual Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards, which honored Donna LaPietra, Nate Marshall, and Isabel Wilkerson.

Legendary Chicago newscaster Bill Kurtis joined us once again as our host. Highlighting the event was the intimate conversation between our Carl Sandburg Literary Award honoree Isabel Wilkerson and best-selling author and National Public Radio Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon. Thanks to our generous supporters, the event raised an inspiring $1.3M for the Library’s lifelong learning programming.

Explore Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards highlights.

We Salute Our Donors

Chicago Public Library thrives when the community invests in its success. Now more than ever, we are profoundly grateful to the philanthropists, businesses, and foundations whose support makes the Library’s extraordinary work possible. Thank you.

Every gift begins with a story. Learn why Mary Beth Hutchinson supports the Library Foundation.

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