Friday, January 10, 2014

Chicago's Godawful Branch Libraries

Mid-day vacuum cleaning at
Chicago Public Library's Northtown branch

Along with Cook County Forest Preserve outhouses, cholera wards and feminist writers' circles, Chicago's neighborhood branch libraries are generally in the category of places to be avoided.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, however, we have, of late, found ourselves inside several of these centers of accumulated wisdom.

In late Autumn, due to a Metra train delay, we found ourselves guests of the nearby Norwood park branch of the Chicago Public library system.

Incisive minds, such as ours, being terrible things to waste, we sought cognitive stimulation there. Thinking to upgrade our computer knowledge we scoured the stacks for useful tomes on the subject.

To our amazement, we found the entire collection very well suited for a technological history museum. But with the latest tome having been published around 2004, they were, alas, of little practical use to us.

If, however, you ever find yourself in need of books with titles like "Success with Windows 2.0" and "The Wang 2200 for Dummies," the Norwood Park branch of the Chicago Public Library is just the spot.

Due to immobility brought on by Chicago's most recent paralyzing blizzard, we again were thrust into a Chicago Public Library branch, this time in search of a wi-fi connection.
Chicago's Northtown
 Branch Library - built in 1962

We went to the Chicago Public Library's ultra-modern North Town Branch. This place - at 6435 N. California - was built in 1962, during the waning days of the JFK administration.

Weak, though it was, we found wi-fi there and also made the amazing discovery that the cleaning lady vacuums the place right in the middle of the day!!

So there we were trying to write and surf the web, while old Russian men were trying to read their old Russian newspapers and Korean kids were trying to master their mathematics concepts and along comes this dour looking babushka, wielding a noisy vacuum cleaner (see photo above.)

It was a very noisy vacuum cleaner.

Right in the middle of the library.

And this was at 3:08 pm  -- right in the very middle of the library's day.

Asked why the night cleaning crew was operating loud heavy machinery in an ostensibly quiet study zone, a library clerk responded, "The cleaning lady always does this - all the cleaning ladies do this, that's just what they do."

Oh, that explains it.

Our spies tell us that next week they're bringing in a jackhammer operator to work on the front sidewalk.

He's scheduled for 2 pm.


  1. I have been to two Chicago Public Libraries in my life.

    Division Street right past Welles. I was the only white person in there. The library was packed, but half of it was empty at 8PM. I sat there. Sir, you can not sit there. Why? It's the children's section. But there are no kids here?

    Other was Harold Washington. Oh what a treat. On a cold day it was nothing more than a hangout for local flophouse hotel residents who only used books as face props while they slept. The other great feature of HWL was the young bucks doing laps around looking for any unattended device. After an hour, since I couldn't find a power source and I didn't want to kill my laptop's battery, I decided to leave. I watched the restroom for a few minutes and since I didn't see anybody go in for a few minutes I thought it might be safe to use. Pushing the door open I was hit with the most noxious odor I believe I have ever smelled. Needless to say I did not use.

    1. That's funny. This Northtown branch had the toilet paper roll in the men's room tied up with a rope so that nobody would steal it. The rope setup made it just about impossible to use.

  2. I was at the Logan Square branch library and 3 drunks were at the table near me. They were latinos and actually drinking booze from a paper cup and making a lot of noise. When I complained about them to the Asian librarian, she told me that some people come from another culture and I would just have to be more open minded.


Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.