Do you remember the last time you visited a public library? I do not mean entering one in passing as part of a jam-packed tourist program. I am thinking of the last time you deliberately went into a library to browse through books, either looking for something specific or just wanting to get inspired.
My last library visit must have been more than 15 years ago, and it is frankly not been something that I missed since then or actively thought about. Books are just a mouse click away these days and therefore easily accessible anytime and anywhere. But being in Chicago, I needed to get myself a library card in order to claim free access to museums. This week had some of those early frosty Winter days, where wind and drizzles of snow did not really motivate to be out in the cold for any longer than necessary. Perfect time I figured for a visit to the Harold Washington Library.
I did not expect what effect this place would have on me. It was almost magical to see memories arise from the past, paired with a peaceful silence, enormous wealth of knowledge and the historic power of the building. Not wanting to end this precious moment so abruptly, I found myself browsing through the aisles and eventually picked out two books about Chicago. I looked for a good spot towards the end of the big hall full of book shelfs, sat myself down and read for a total of two hours without any interruption.
I noticed that I was not the only one taking advantage of the warmth and quietness this building had to offer. There were quite a few people who obviously have no other place to go than this. They came to read, to take a rest, to secretly eat a slice of pizza in one of the hidden corners, hoping no one would discover them. Or they just waited for the day to go by, dreading another cold night ahead of them.
As I put my books back into the shelf and walked home, I felt a lot of compassion for those in need. I was grateful for knowing where I can rest my head for the night, which often seems like a given. I actually did not get the library card I initially came for, as I was not able to present a picture ID with my Chicago address on it. A good reason to come back and it is something I already look forward to.