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Chicago, IL

Obscura Society IL: Exploring the World's Largest Library

Join the Illinois Obscura Society as we explore the voluminous and unusual collections inside, and the unusual post modern architecture outside.

Join the Illinois Obscura Society as we explore the voluminous and unusual collections inside, and the unusual post modern architecture outside.

When the Harold Washington library opened in 1991, the world had a new largest public municipal library. At first gaze, you know this is something different. Massive gothic owls peer over the corners, and the styles of several prominent Chicago buildings merge to hold up the unusual glass roof. 

Inside the walls are ten floors of books, maps, artwork, workshops, offices and a winter garden, all connected by an intricate network of escalators. Also inside: another library, because this one is so big that an entirely separate library is needed for popular works.

You will see:

  • An analog version of Google image search
  • Giant owl acroteria designed by artist Kent Bloomer, once described as "something Mussolini might have built if he’d had a sense of humor."
  • A maker lab featuring 3-D printing equipment, available free to the public
  • The Winter Garden
  • Special Collections, including rare and one-of-a kind artifacts
  • The Harold Washington exhibit
  • and much more...

This event is open to all ages, and you don't need a library card to attend. Bags will be searched upon leaving the premises, so we ask that you arrive will as little gear as possible.

Fees are charged solely by Atlas Obscura to cover expenses for hosting the event.

Washington Library is a stop on loop trains (State/Van Buren).

Parking Information

Meet at the main desk in lobby at 1:15.

ALL TICKET SALES ARE FINAL