Engaging with your Local Library

Jesse AltmanPartnerships

Text on computer screen reads: Engaging with your Local Library, with a cook stack and office supply jar

When you think of your local library, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it is probably spending time perusing the many shelves for the perfect book to take home to enjoy. For others, it might be a quiet public space with plenty of seating and free, unlimited Wi-Fi – no drink purchase required. However, libraries have become so much more than just depositories of books and public spaces for reading, especially as they have adapted to meet communities’ needs during COVID. This February, in honor of Library Lovers Month, WITS has taken a deep dive into everything that Chicago Public Library (CPL) can be for WITS students and families.

I had the chance to speak with Rica Bouso, Director of Marketing and Promotions at the Chicago Public Library Foundation, and she imparted on me, “People still have a very nostalgic feeling of what a library is… but we actually go above and beyond giving books as resources.” To spread the word about some of the wonderful resources available at CPL, WITS is sharing seven unique ways to engage with your local library.

  1. Virtual Events at CPL focus on teaching the five pillars of literacy: writing, talking, reading, singing, and playing. The Library offers regular STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), movement, and music events. All of these events can be registered for in advance and many of them are later saved on the CPL YouTube channel or on their Facebook page.
  2. Virtual Teacher in the Library provides free support from a certified teacher in a small group Zoom setting, reviewing homework and doing fun activities to deepen understanding of various  school subjects. Students can receive help in both English and Spanish in this engaging after school learning program. Students can register for sessions from 3-5pm or 5-7pm on weekdays, or from 1:30-3pm or 3-4:30pm on weekends. Not only does this program benefit students, but it empowers families to support their children in school as well.
  3. BrainFuse is a live one-on-one homework help service for students in kindergarten through high school. Whether you want help with specific homework questions, or you’d like to improve your study skills, BrainFuse is available from 11am to 11pm to help students get the individual attention they need when their classroom teachers are unavailable. BrainFuse teachers are also available to help non-native speakers learn English as a second language.
  4. Live from the Library is a virtual story time held daily at 10am during the week where beloved librarians and public figures read stories for young learners. Each story is available on the Chicago Public Library’s Facebook page as a live event and is archived there as well for students and their families to revisit. Some of the past Live from the Library guests include Dolly Parton, Oprah, Kristen Bell, and President Barack and Michelle Obama!
  5. Grab and Go Kits are just the thing for families looking for hands-on activities. Whether you’re looking for a craft kit or something related to science, CPL has partnered with organizations like the Children’s Museum and WITS to distribute fun, interactive activity kits that you can pick up for free at your local library branch!
  6. Internet to Go is one of CPL’s newest programs, created to support families as they work and learn from home. If you and your family would like to increase your internet access, you can stop by one of the participating branches to checkout a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to three weeks! If you need a device to use that hotspot with, you can even borrow a Chromebook kit which includes a hotspot as well as Chromebook laptop.
  7. Additional resources for kids from A-Z are available online that students and their families can access to help with language learning, science, and social sciences. From extra interactive games and lessons to useful websites full of interesting and engaging content, there are many fun ways for students to keep up their learning outside of the classroom.
Michelle and Barack Obama are in front of a bookshelf. Barack is holding up a copy of The Word Collector.

The library is surely a place of books and learning, but it is also a cornerstone of the communities here in Chicago. Chicago Public Library is full of fun and helpful resources just waiting for students and their families interact with them. This month, I would encourage you to take a closer look at your local library branch and all of the amazing things it has available to you. Who knows? You might just find a new reason to love the library.

About the Chicago Public Library Foundation

Established in 1986, the Chicago Public Library Foundation (CPLF) is an independent nonprofit that exists to accelerate the potential of our public library by investing in resources that transform lives and communities. For more than 30 years, we have connected individuals and corporations, neighborhood organizations and city agencies committed to building a stronger and more equitable Chicago.