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The Chicago Public Library


Chicago Public Library (CPL), as one of the leading public library systems in the world, serves nearly three million people located within 77 community areas through its 81 locations. The City of Chicago does have a formal "smart city" strategy that is best captured in its 2013 City of Chicago Technology Plan. It organized the current and planned technology initiatives into five broader strategic areas: 1) establishing next-generation infrastructure, 2) creating smart communities, 3) ensuring efficient, effective, and open government, 4) working with innovators to develop solutions to city challenges, and 5) encouraging Chicago’s technology sector.

The technology deployments in the city have gone beyond broadband Internet infrastructure and have involved innovative uses of technology mainly in the form of different sensors as part of the Array of Things initiative. There is also active stakeholder engagement and citizen participation in an effort to increase the success and sustainability of these technologies within the community and increase the positive impact on the community's residents.

The CPL is serving as a trusted community space and provider of services that are critical to "ensuring that Chicago is bringing everybody along on the smart city journey.” First, the CPL is helping all Chicagoans become smarter through providing them with the access to various kinds of technologies and the opportunity to improve their digital skills. Second, the CPL is enabling citizen participation in smart city initiatives. It helps the local government to engage with citizens through library space and make sure the new technologies meet citizen’s needs and address their concerns. Third, the CPL provides the first free makerspace (The Maker Lab) to all Chicagoans, which helps introduce new types of technologies, hosts introductory workshops and set up open shop for personal project and collaboration. It has greatly enabled citizen innovation and the development of entrepreneurship in contributing to the smartness development in Chicago.


For its future development and to better contribute to a smart Chicago, the CPL is looking more holistically at how they deliver programming and experiences for adults to help demystify technologies that they are not familiar with. The library will also continue its digital literacy program but with increased focus on including patrons with diverse backgrounds and track how its programs and services increase patrons’ technology skills and employment opportunities. The CPL will also continue its collaboration with the city government to better engage citizens on new community technologies through providing library space and librarians’ support.

If you are interested, please read the full case study about the Chicago Public Library and how it is helping develop a smart community.

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