This year I am celebrating my twelfth year in Chicago. When I first moved here, the city was vibrant, exciting, and bigger-than-life. Over time, however, it seemed to lose its luster just a little—and winter never helps that feeling. I decided to read Southside by Natalie Moore just to get out of my winter slump and to remind myself that this city is full of stories and histories. Life, itself, is expressed in the architecture, the river, the concrete sidewalks, and the treelined boulevards. It is amazing how quickly we forget this. The buildings blend into the horizon; the river disappears under our busy feet; we don’t notice where we walk; and even nature all but vanishes. This is were I found myself as 2017 began. One more year. One more winter. And the city just moves on. Then, one day—January 5th—I found myself with a severe case of cabin fever. I went to the nearest LA Fitness to ride the bike, preparing for my all-to-ambitious triathlon dreams, and drove to the Brighton Park Library to write.
This was my first time at this branch of the Chicago Public Library. To be honest, I usually study at coffee shops. I am a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast and can point you in the direction of dozens of different cafes. I keep it simple: a small, black coffee. If you can do that right, and you have free wifi, I’ll likely be a regular. Coffee, though, is inching up in price. Not that $2.50 is bad, I mean, you are paying to sit in the establishment for hours at a time. Still, I’ve needed to be a little more frugal these days. To the library I went.
The Brighton Park branch is a nice, quiet, community branch. I sat for a couple of hours revising a paper I was working on. There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic, but then again, it was pretty early. While I was sitting there, though, I remembered a seminar I had attended in which one of the officials from the CPL discussed the complex organization and the difficulty in tracking library usage in an age in which book are not the primary purpose for a visit. Ever since hearing that presentation I had wanted to make a commitment to visit the library more often. I wanted to commit to using this vital city institution. Well, there I was, sitting in Brighton Park Library. That is where it began, my mission to visit all 80 branches of the Chicago Public Library in one year.