@SP Body Copy:While local libraries offers plenty of great resources and programming, it can be worth making a bit of a trip to see what other districts have to offer. These three libraries are among those that are worth the trip.
Gail Borden Public Library 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin, (847) 742-2411; gailborden.info
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1-5:30 p.m. Sunday
About a million visitors come to the Gail Borden Public Library annually. The Elgin library was one of five libraries nationwide to receive the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest honor for libraries. The two-story building opened in 2003 and offers views of the Fox River. High school students have their own space, with a new teen center that opened in January and includes a gaming station, performance stage, craft tables and a mix of PCs and Macs. An interactive play area for kids features a climbing structure with a slide, a freshwater aquarium and plenty of puppets, games and computers with age-appropriate software.
"The concept is that reading doesn't happen in a silent vacuum," said Denise Raleigh, director of communications. "Parents can be reading and watching their children play and it encourages kids to think of books as part of their everyday activities."
Harold Washington Library Center 400 S. State St., Chicago, (312) 747-4300; chipublib.org
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
The 756,640-square-foot Harold Washington Library Center is the world's largest public library building.
"It's been the main public library here in the South Loop for the last 20 years," said spokesman Leland Elder. "It's a state of the art building with state of the art technology."
The Thomas Hughes Children's Library has more than 18,000 square feet and contains 120,000 volumes, Chicago's largest collection of children's books. The space includes a computer center, a puppet stage and a dollhouse packed with 70 clues that reference nursery rhymes, children's stories and poems. A wide selection of children's videos is available in The Popular Library. The library also houses regularly changing public art exhibits.
Mount Prospect Public Library
10 S. Emerson St., Mount Prospect, (847) 253-5675; mppl.org
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
One of the Mount Prospect Public Library's biggest strengths is its public art collection. The pieces include a mobile made from 44 kites that move based on the library's ambient temperature, several 2- to 3-foot pieces of Japanese pottery, stained glass and a mural that was painted on-site.
"We have 12 pieces that have been specifically designed for spaces in the library and they appeal to different senses," said Carolynn Muci, marketing and public relations director.
A second story was added to the library in 2004, and the entire first floor is now a children's area so parents don't have to worry about their kids disturbing adult patrons. The space includes a puppet theater, kid-sized shelves stocked with picture books and a collection of puppets, toys, puzzles and games that can be checked out by anyone with an Illinois library card. A dramatic play area is expected to open this spring and will include a house made from recycled books and a model kitchen where kids can practice reading labels and recipes as they pretend to make meals. The family place also includes kid-friendly computers side by side with computers parents can use. The computer area shares space with resources on toilet training, bullying, craft projects and more.
"I think it's one of the best collections in the Northwest suburbs of parent/teacher materials," Muci said. "We have a lot of preschool teachers come in to work on their curriculum."