Using the Chicago Public Library PDF Print E-mail

We all know the Chicago Public Library (CPL) is a great resources for History Fair students, but sometimes the large buildings and vast collections can seem overwhelming. Below are three specific ways CPL can help you be a great historian and researcher!

  • YOUMedia is the place to grow your websites and documentaries
cpl pic 2

cpl school group

TEACHERS: How to set-up an appointment for a school group tour

The Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State Street) has extensive collections about the history of Chicago. To arrange a class visit, please contact:

Catheryn Bearov

Mary Decker

A TIP FROM THE HISTORY DETECTIVES: To make the most of your time, you can prepare for your visit to the Chicago Public Library by doing research before you come.  Use “My Shelves” to check out the books you want to find once you arrive. (My Account → My Shelves → For Later).

cpl myshelves

Important History Fair Links on the Chicago Public Library Website

Go directly to the History Fair Helper page:

It will take History Fair students directly to the most useful Online Resources.

cpl teen page

Archival Collections are located at three Chicago Public Library locations (Harold Washington, Sulzer Regional, and Woodson Regional).These collections are great resources for students doing History Fair! Check out the Archival Collection webpage or click each library link below.

cpl archival collections

The Special Collections at HWLC, 9th floor, the Northside Neighborhood History Collection at Sulzer Regional, and the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection on the 5th floor of the HWLC for 2017 (more details at "Using the Harsh Collection") all welcome visitors during open hours and by appointment. They also offer research orientation sessions by appointment for instructors and classes. Given the special nature of our materials, the libraries ask you to conform to security and handling precautions:

  • Complete a registration form and present valid photo ID before receiving materials.
  • Use materials only in the Reading Room.
  • Contact us in advance of your visit if you are interested in unprocessed collections.

cpl pic 1youmedia


YOUMedia is a great place for students to work on and receive help with History Fair digital interviews, audio and video editing, and website design. You will also find resources for designing and altering graphics for your Exhibit boards.

". . . an innovative, 21st century teen learning space at eleven Chicago Public Library locations. YOUmedia connects young adults, books, media, mentors and institutions throughout Chicago in a dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity." - CPL, YOUmedia

For High School students:

For Middle School students:

History Fair Tour of Sources at the Harold Washington Library

The library uses SCANNERS ONLY, no photocopiers. Bring a flash drive or email to self or to googledrive.  Printed copies may be ordered  for 25cents per page.

(Download HWLC Source Guide as a PDF)


Resources Available

Types of Sources


Popular Library

  • Documentaries
  • Music cd’s
  • (Pop movies or films if students are doing a popular culture historical topic)
YOUMEDIA for documentary and website editing (visual and audio), recording of interviews, graphic design

Historical footage

Secondary sources

Music as primary source or as background audio

Tech help



“Starter books” for broad background. Photos and images in printed matter


Newspapers Room for other city dailies not scanned and available online for different perspectives, additional info. Also find 19th newspapers, special newspapers (such as underground/alternatives). Also where any microfilmed periodical is to be read.

Microfiche scanner (can save articles on a usb)

Computer Center for word processing, internet access for quality websites, scanner


Copy Center to have copies made, obtain a copy card

Index Area

  • Readers Guide to Periodicals for magazines before databases. Treasures!
  • Other indices  (for example, NY Times, SunTimes)

Circulation Desk

In newspapers, find:





Political cartoons



Business (and Labor), Science, Technology, Military – business and trade magazines, special Chicago Collection on these topics behind librarian’s desk

Industry trade journals as primary sources

Corporate records

Chicago Collection of books behind librarian’s desk to borrow for library use

Secondary Sources


Municipal Reference = CITY (In catalog, call numbers are often C, Cz, Cc…) Look at binder, shelf list too.  Material has to do with city neighborhoods, infrastructure, city council, mayor’s office, departments (police, sanitation, public health, urban planning. (CTA, CHA, CPS

Clipping files of important city subjects and events pre-internet (can find articles not easily available elsewhere)

Bound issues of some known and lesser known periodicals that are not scanned.

State and Federal Documents

Primary sources:



Graphs reports


City council proceedings, laws

City Department reports


Laws, congressional hearings, executive branch departments reports

Educational-promotional information from different agencies


Social Science and History

Books (circulating)

Chicago Collection room: Students may go behind librarian’s desk into that room.  For photocopying and note-taking—books do not circulate.

Magazine and Journals not online: Librarians can tell you where to locate the magazines and journals you need or give you the microfilm to use on the third

Key secondary sources on Chicago history topics, many will contain primary sources too.

Coaches meet in the room


Journalism, Chicago writers

Foreign language books and magazines

Secondary sources

Primary sources=the writers’ works


Art, Architecture, Music—files on buildings behind desk. Chicago Collection.  What is the status of the Blues/Jazz archives

American Federation of Musicians Union,

Chicago Artists Archives--clippings of artists from 1930-1990

Vertical files—see especially  “Chicago” heading

Secondary sources

Primary sources on art, music, architecture

Primary source images pre- “Google images”


Special Collections

Harold Washington Exhibition

Primary sources.

Most of the blues and jazz archives.


Social Media


Chicago Metro History Fair on Facebook


Twitter @ChiHistoryFair



google plus CMHF Media on Google Plus
RocketTheme Joomla Templates