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“Libraries are so much more than repositories for books. Libraries are us.”

- 2016 21st Century Award Winner
Amina Gautier

Strategy In Action

Everyone has a library story,
because the library is for everyone.

“Libraries are so much more than repositories for books. Libraries are us.”

- 2016 21st Century Award Winner
Amina Gautier

At the Chicago Public Library Foundation, we help Chicagoans of all ages tell new library stories.

Together with our donors, we launch and sustain initiatives that help people find jobs, explore their passions, empower families to learn together, and give teens a microphone (literally). These above and beyond programs meet real needs in our community and build a stronger Chicago.

2019 was a year marked by energizing change. In May, the city welcomed the 56th mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot. In June, Chicago Public Library veteran Andrea Telli was named Commissioner. Amid these transitions, the institution was navigating an in-depth, year-long strategic planning process shaped by thoughtful feedback from more than 10,000 staff, patrons, and other stakeholders. The result, the Library’s 2020-2024 plan is now available.

Aligning with the Library’s strategic process, the Library Foundation Board of Directors, Associate Board, staff, and other stakeholders collectively worked together to bring fresh eyes to our mission, vision, and values.

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5 Staff Planning Retreats

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1 Comprehensive Internal Audit

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2 Board-Driven Framework Exercises

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200 respondents to a current, lapsed, & non-donor survey

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70 respondents to a grant-funded staff survey

The result is a new North Star, a living strategic document that defines who we are, what we do, and how we bring transformational private investment to our Chicago Public Library.

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By The Numbers

Our donors activate real change. In 2019, private investment transformed thousands of lives for the better.

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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

Too many Chicago children are born into circumstances that limit how far they will go in life. Whether that’s the neighborhood they grow up in, the schools they have access to, the resources their parents have–even the quality of the air–our city has long been divided to the deterrent of not just individuals, but of our collective prosperity as Chicagoans.

The following donor-powered programs leverage our Library’s city-wide 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.

  • “There is a place for every child here.”
  • – Jess, Children’s Librarian

ScienceConnections

Throughout the academic year, ScienceConnections sparks a love of STEAM learning for children and families with workshops, science fairs, in-home experiments, and more.

  • “A family friend recommended the Discovery Packs and they are amazing! Our favorite is Science Up Close, which has a microscope inside. Before, my kids only wanted to check out DVDs from the library, now they run to look for the Packs.”
  • – Parent, Thomas Hughes
    Children’s Library at Harold

Teacher in the Library

Accessible, reliable, high-quality homework help can boost students’ confidence and ignite a lifelong love of learning. With free homework help from accredited educators available in branches across the city, every student in Chicago can access the support they need to succeed.

  • “Teacher in the Library has made a difference in Telane's attitude towards homework, and in her grades. As a parent it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, knowing she is getting the academic support she needs.”
  • - Eva, parent

Summer Learning Challenge

Each year, the Summer Learning Challenge empowers kids across Chicago to make the most of their summers with fun, educational, and free activities for the whole family. In 2019, the Explorers at Play! theme invited children to use their imaginations, be healthy and active, and learn about the human body, while keeping the summer slide at bay.

  • “The Summer Learning Challenge makes sure my kids don’t miss a beat over the summer. It helps sharpen their brains and motivates them to read more.”
  • – Parent, Woodson Regional Library

Activate Connection
& Creativity For All

Chicago’s world-renowned arts and culture sector fuels tremendous creative, economic, and innovative growth. But access to big ideas and top talent is often far out of reach for lower-income members of our community. As a result, too many Chicagoans are shut out from the marketplace of creativity and the holistic benefits of the arts. Our city, in turn, misses out on opportunities to be elevated and enriched by the inclusion of diverse new voices and viewpoints.

The following investment priorities invite all Chicagoans 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.

YOUmedia

With a distinctive blend of design, multimedia, and STEAM tools; self-guided exploration; and caring mentorship, YOUmedia creates inspiring opportunities for teens to develop their talents in the safe and welcoming spaces of our public library.

  • “YOUmedia has opened doors for me, doors I didn’t know were available to me.”
  • – Jamal, YOUmedia alumnus

One Book, One Chicago

One Book, One Chicago inspires city-wide conversations. Activated by private investment, One Book, One Chicago presents more than 100 programs, from films and walking tours to discussions and hands-on activities, linked by a common theme. The 2019/20 selection, Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sixth Extinction, tackled one of the most pressing issues of our time: climate change.

  • “How amazing is it that the Library’s programs go beyond the walls of the Library. Just when you think you know Chicago—a hidden corner, a second glance at a building you take for granted, or a story about an old hotel you pass by at work—surprise you.”
  • – Indira, OBOC walking tour participant

Maker Lab

The Maker Lab is where ideas come to life. Equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, and everything in between, Chicago makers, crafters, and entrepreneurs at all experience levels come together to explore the intersection of creativity and innovation.

  • “What makes the Maker Lab extremely interesting is that every kind of person walks into the space and learn something new. To witness and to be part of this transformation is humbling and enriching.”
  • – Kate Conlon, 2019 Maker-in-Residence

Bridge the Digital Divide

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 40% of lower-income households don’t have home broadband services or a traditional computer. Many of these adults and older adults also lack the skills they need to effectively and safely navigate our increasingly digital world. Without this crucial know-how, thousands of Chicagoans are blocked from online opportunities to apply for jobs, find education and health resources, participate in civic life, and connect with loved ones.

Our digital mentorship program removes barriers through curated resources, 1:1 skills-building support, and user-friendly Chicago DigitalLearn modules accessible from any computer. Together, we transform lives through technology.

CyberNavigator

Click, swipe, scroll, save—for too many Chicagoans, going online is an intimidating experience and a barrier to accessing employment, educational, and civic resources. CyberNavigator digital literacy mentors help close the city’s digital divide by assisting patrons with everything from setting up an email to completing an online job application through 1:1 training and small group classes.

  • “I attended the CyberNavigator sessions to ask help in updating my resume and filing my career documents for an interview. After months of hard work, I got the job! I am so grateful to this program for teaching me the skills and giving me the confidence to get back on the job market.”
  • – Claudia, patron

Chicago DigitalLearn

Chicago DigitalLearn is a free, video-based resource anyone can use to become more confident online to help people find a job or health resources, protect themselves from online scams, learn how to use Microsoft Word and Excel, make their computer or cell phone easier to use, and many other useful topics. Chicago DigitalLearn classes are offered in both Spanish and English.

  • “I turned on the computer, logged into my account, and completed a short email for the first time. The feeling is priceless.”
  • - Maurice, Patron

Events

Our highly-anticipated Night in the Stacks and Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner annual events invite Library lovers to support our city’s most democratic institution—and have a great time while doing so. Last year, guests at these signature events raised a glass with fellow lifelong learning enthusiasts while helping to raise an extraordinary $2.3M to power our public library.

We Salute Our Donors

To our dedicated community of donors: Your investment helps to activate all 81 Chicago Public Library branches and makes moments of inspiration, connection, and learning possible for thousands across our city every day. We are deeply grateful. Thank you.

Leadership