ALA Annual: Chicago Pride

Pride balloons

While you prepare for ALA Annual this summer (or any summer), it’s always worth taking a look to see what other events are going on in the city that you can enjoy before, during, and after.  This year, the conference will overlap with one of my favorite annual events in the city, the Chicago Pride Parade.  The parade will kick off for the 48th year on Chicago’s north side, where it will wind its way through Chicago’s famous Boystown neighborhood and out towards Lake Michigan.  For less mainstream festivities, you can also check out the Chicago Dyke March, taking place on Saturday the 24th in the Little Village neighborhood.  Whether or not you attend one of these events, this is the perfect weekend to enjoy LGBTQ Chicago.

If you do plan on attending the Pride Parade, you can find a map and more information at Chicago Pride Parade website, and should keep a few things in mind.  First, the middle of the parade in Boystown (along Halsted and Belmont) will have the biggest crowds – up to six or seven people deep on the sidewalks.  If you prefer a more laid-back viewing experience, try Broadway near the beginning of the parade route or Diversey near the end.  Second, it’s long!  Be prepared for about two and a half hours of fun, and another half an hour or hour of staking out a spot before the parade.  For me, this usually means bringing a camp chair, cold drinks, snacks, and lots of sunscreen.  Lastly, this is always a joyous event, so be prepared with smiles, cheers, and a camera.

Pride flag

If you want to skip the parade crowds but still enjoy the LGBTQ scene in Chicago, there are a few ways to do that.  Chicago’s Center on Halsted offers critical services as well as fun events for the city’s LGBTQ population, and will be celebrating Pride weekend with a party.  Or get busy thrifting at one of the Brown Elephant locations – proceeds support the Howard Brown Health Center, which provides crucial health services for LGBTQ individuals.  If you’re looking to avoid the Boystown crowds entirely, head north to Andersonville, where you can get a great meal at Hamburger Mary’s and enjoy their Dining with the Divas drag queen performances.  And of course, there’s always Chicago’s various flavors of LGBTQ bars, in Boystown or throughout the city.

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ALA Annual Visit: Getting Around Chicago

As a resident of Chicago for many years, I’ve learned to love a lot about the city – including how easy it is to get around.  It’s wonderful to be in a place that has world-class museums, a free zoo, lakefront parks, quality theaters, and much more, all easy to get to with public transit!

Chicago TrainsI often tell people that one of my favorite things about Chicago, and one of the reasons I have no plans to leave the city anytime soon, is our network of trains and busses run by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  For just $2.25, you can use the CTA to get from one end of the city to the other, and find restaurants, entertainment, and more.  Since many of you will be visiting Chicago for the first time, I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the great parts of our public transit system.  Your best friend when it comes to navigating Chicago via CTA will be Google Maps, which will tell you which train or bus you should take, where you should get on it, and which direction you should take it in.  But there are a few basics that will make your transit experiences in Chicago easier.

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ALA Annual Visit: Chicago Libraries

The Chicago Public Library System is over 100 years old.  The city council passed an ordinance in 1872 to establish a free public library after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 devastated the city.  In fact, the first Chicago Public Library was opened in a water tank that had survived the disaster.

Now, there are 80 individual branches in the system, which have seen, in just the first four months of 2017, over 2 million visitors.  The diversity and personality of the city’s neighborhoods are reflected in the architecture and expertise of each building.  The problem for any visitor is figuring out which library to see during their time in the city.

I would suggest that library lovers start with the Harold Washington Library, which is the system’s central library.   It is located in the South Loop on State Street between Van Buren and Congress Parkway.  It opened in 1991 and is named after Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington.  It houses the flagship YOUmedia space, which is 5,500 square foot youth centered makerspace where everything from music producing to knitting is offered.  Located on the first floor it is a vibrant space with accents of orange and green and is open most days starting at 1pm. Stop by some afternoon and witness its hum of creativity and learning.

Another must see library branch is CPL’s Chinatown branch.  Located on Wentworth, it is only about a mile and half west of McCormick Place.  It was one of the seven recipients of the 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards.  It is an elegant design of rounded steel and glass, which provides lots of natural light to its large open spaces.  It’s floor plan, with its wraparound central courtyard, pays subtle homage to traditional Chinese home design.  Vibrant murals and signs with Chinese characters also firmly root the building in the culture of the neighborhood.  Make sure to wander through the children’s section, with its curved shelving and oversized blocks, it is sure to promote avid young readers.   

If you are willing to go a little farther afield there are some great branches in the surrounding neighborhoods.  In Ravenswood there is the Conrad Sulzer Library, which features the Northside Neighborhood History Collection.  The Timothy Beach Blackstone Branch in Kenwood on the Southside was the first ever Chicago Public Library branch to open in 1904.  It is modeled after a temple in the Acropolis in Athens.  It’s classical interior features a rotunda, mosaic tiles, and a stained glass ceiling.  The Pullman Branch was once part of the Pullman School of Manual Training and part of its facade is made to look like open books.

Outside of the Chicago Public Library system, the city also has some wonderful private libraries in institutions such as the Newberry Library, the Art Institute, the Field Museum, and the Oriental Institute.  Here is a post from Atlas Obscura that talks about Chicago’s “secret” libraries, including one that catalogs leather culture.  

Hopefully if you are attending ALA this year you will carve out some time in your busy schedule to visit a local library.  With so many to choose from there is a little something for everyone.  Take some time out of the heat or the crush of the exhibit hall and remind yourself why you came to the convention in the first place, because libraries are wonderful places to be.

Bridget Farrell is a middle school librarian in a northern suburb of Chicago.

ALA Annual Visit: Chicago Coffee

To be honest, I just really need to tell you about this toasted marshmallow latte. Seriously, that’s the whole point of this post.

I’m not sorry. In fact, you’re welcome in advance!

Typically, I’m not a latte drinker. Instead, I tend to favor coffee. Plain and simple. The less frills the better, really. Except we all know some of the best roasts and roasting methods are quite fancy and the resulting flavors and aromas are often worth the wait. And, since we’re heading to Chicago I thought it might be fun to profile a few of my favorite coffee shops.

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ALA Annual Visit: Nature and Outdoor Fun

Chicago is a beautiful place in the summertime. After a long, cold (although in this year’s case not so snowy) winter the city comes alive. The cultural, cuisine, and sports attractions are all wonderful ways to pass a summer day, but it would be a shame to visit this city without also taking advantage of what nature has to offer.

Of course, the largest natural feature of the Chicagoland area is the Lake Michigan shoreline. On a warm day hitting the beach is a great option. North Avenue Beach, right on Lake Shore Drive, is a popular destination. With amenities like jetski, bike, and kayak rentals, volleyball courts, lockers, as well as concessions, there is something for everyone. The beach’s most iconic feature is the beach house, a blue and white building, built to look like an ocean liner.

North Avenue Beach

Also on Lake Shore Drive, but a little closer to downtown is Oak Street Beach. With great views of the city skyline and all the amenities of concession and rental, it does tend to be a little more crowded on hot days and there is only street parking. Farther south is Montrose Beach, another wonderful place to while away a summer day. A unique feature of this beach is a bird sanctuary. Over 300 species have been sighted there with early morning being the best time for bird watching. But, anytime of day the meadow and dunes is a peaceful contrast to the manicured park and busy city that surrounds.

For those who wish for a less sandy outdoor experience the Lincoln Park Conservatory is not to be missed. There are multiple display rooms within a Victorian style glass conservatory as well as beautiful surrounding gardens. Part of this large complex, that is attached to the Lincoln Park Zoo, is a hidden lily pond. Called the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, there is a stone walkway with prairie-style architectural structures, a pavilion, council ring, lots of shady trees, it’s a sanctuary in the midst of a bustling city.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

The Chicago River is a natural feature nestled right in the middle of a cityscape that also offers opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Take a boat architecture tour led by Chicago Architecture Foundation docents. For those who desire more adventure, book a tour (the Ghosts and Gangsters of Hustlertown is one example) with Wateriders, or simply rent a kayak and paddle at your own pace.

However you choose to spend your time in Chicago, remember that even in the midst of the crowd and concrete of the city there are still opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and find some refuge in the more natural world.

Bridget Farrell is a middle school librarian in a northern suburb of Chicago.

ALA Annual Visit: Chinatown Chicago

Tomorrow is the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year! It’s the Year of the Rooster and, to celebrate, as well as to get us thinking about Annual in Chicago, I thought it would be fun to make conference attendees aware of Chicago Chinatown. As I accidentally discovered this neighborhood myself last time Annual was held in Chicago, I know from experience it’s an easy walk from where the conference is held. And, look, I even went ahead and Googled it for you! It’s just over a mile away (okay, okay, 1.2-1.5 depending on who you ask). 

Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil monkey statues

Besides the obvious – there is a TON of good food in Chinatown, there are also a surprising amount of cool shops to find any number of trinkets you are looking for. For example, I still have (and proudly display) the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkey sculpture I bought last time I was there.

You should definitely stop by the Chiu Quon Bakery for a Bao filled with custard. Or any of the other baked buns they have available. They all looked fantastic. Incidentally it appears I’m not alone in this opinion, as Chiu Quon is listed among the best restaurants in Chinatown according to Thrillist. Check out their article here: https://www.thrillist.com/eat/chicago/chinatown/best-restaurants-chinese-food-chicago-chinatown.

I like Chinatown as a recommended visit for Annual because it’s a nice, easy walk and can be as short or long a visit as you like. I went through as much of it as I wanted to in about two hours, including the walk. Of course, there’s also efficient and affordable public transportation should the weather not be kind, or should you already be exhausted from other conference efforts. You can certainly get some good food and cool, unique souvenirs to take back home. 

So, when you need a break from convention craziness, head to Chinatown!

Be sure to check out chicagochinatown.org for all of the latest information and events that might be planned while you’re in town!

2017 year of the rooster

Joel Shoemaker was on the 2017 Stonewall Book Awards Committee for Youth and serves on the 2018 Stonewall Book Awards Committee for Adults. He is the Library Director for Oakwood Public Library District (Ill.) and has been a magician for more than twenty-five years.

A Sampling of Chicago YA Authors

by Heather Love Beverley

Looking to get revved up for ALA Annual in Chicago? How about spending some time immersed in some deliciously good YA novels, all by extremely talented Chicago authors? Here’s a sampling of some of the literary YA wonders of the Chicago-land area:

Lisa Jenn Bigelow: First-time YA author Bigelow’s novel Starting From Here is captivating readers with its poignant, charming and compelling coming-of-age storyline, and has been named a 2013 Rainbow List Top Ten book.

Franny Billingsley: Billengsley has written a masterpiece of rich imagery and sensual language with her beguiling historical novel, Chime.

Fern Schumer Chapman: Chapman’s novel Is It Night or Day? is a heartwrenchingly beautiful account of a young Jewish girl’s journey from WWII Germany to America. This novel is a fictionalized account of Chapman’s mother’s own journey, which is also chronicled in her memoir Motherland.

Simone Elkeles: Elkeles’s novels range from intense and steamy- the Perfect Chemistry series, Leaving Paradise series, and her newest Wild Cards series- to comical and sweet- the How to Ruin series. All are delightful and engaging. Continue reading

YALSA YouMedia Tour Planned for Annual 2013

by Portia Latalladi

Near the State Street entrance of the Harold Washington Library Center, you’ll find a special space where high school teens can express themselves in unique ways, utilizing the latest technology and gadgets. This successful hub of inspiration and innovation has garnered national attention and serves as a model to the wave of teen tech spaces that have begun to emerge everywhere. This space is the Chicago Public Library’s groundbreaking’ YouMedia’ center, and a visit there should be an item on everyone’s 2013 ALA Annual “bucket list.”

The dedicated staff and mentors of’ YouMedia lead teens in a range of workshops, from digital music production and digital video production to graphic design and podcasting, to’ give them the skills and resources to produce fabulous works of self-expression and creativity.

On Sunday, June 30th from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m., a member of YouMedia’s staff will conduct an overview and tour of the space; registration will be limited to the first twenty-five people who register.

 

 

 

Live Music in Chicago

by Colleen Seisser

Chicago is famous for it’s rich history of Blues music. ‘ However, like many urban areas today, there is some fantastic music being made in Chicago. ‘ On the right night, walking into any local bar or restaurant can be a treat for your ears. ‘ I got in touch with a local Chicago musician, Tim Seisser, and asked him for some recommendations for great venues for live music in Chicago. ‘ Tim has been playing bass all over the Chicagoland area for about ten years, so he knows a thing or two about the Chicago music scene. Here are some of his picks and why:

1. Reggie’s Music Joint

Reggie’s is located in the South Loop and has two venues (Reggie’s Rock Club: the bigger stage and Reggie’s Music joint: the restaurant/bar with live music), while also housing Record Breakers, a huge record store onsite. ‘ Parking is ample around Reggies, and it is easy access via public transportation. ‘ You never know what you are going to hear at Reggie’s–Rock, Punk, Rockabilly, Blues, Jazz–it is an establishment that is made for a music fan.

Tim says: Reggies is a great south loop location with amazing food, consistent good music, and a large variety of good beer on tap. ‘ Cover is usually pretty cheap.
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Sights, Sounds, Smells of Chicago

I have been remiss about blogging from ALA due to spending most of the day yesterday either in an unairconditioned cab or a meeting room. However, business is being done. Yesterday, the USBBY Board (www.usbby.org) met to conduct business. If you have time today, plan to attend the USBBY sponsored session from 3:30-5:30 (co sponsor is YALSA) with the author of HEARTSINGER and her translator and editor.

Today began with a Neil Gaiman spotting. I think that bodes well for the day.

Most of the talk this morning was about the Board meeting Monday when the topic of BBYA will come to the floor for discussion. YALSA members should plan to come and listen and provide feedback.