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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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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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.

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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