« Back to Positioning the Library

Chicago Public Library’s Library Lounge Happy Hours

Chicago Public Library

Innovation Summary

As part of a campaign to reach 25-35 year olds, Chicago Public Library hosted a series of “Library Lounge” happy hours in neighborhood bars across the city to highlight the many great (and free) resources available at the library and to create a community of library advocates.

Problem Statement

Many in the 25-35 year old demographic don’t think the Library is relevant to them once they are no longer in school and they fail to take advantage of the free resources available to them. They also often fail to understand the importance of continued library support. The Chicago Public Library identified this “post-college, pre-kid” crowd as an audience who needed reminding that the library offered up-to-date resources which would be valuable in their everyday lives. Focus groups conducted showed that while the Library had the “products” this group desired, it lacked a way to get that information in front of the target demographic in a way that was fun and inviting. The Library sought to re-form this group’s perception of libraries in order to build not only usership, but also an understanding of the importance of supporting the role libraries play in our communities.


In 2011, Chicago Public Library created a series of 5 hosted happy hours, entitled “Library Lounges” which were sponsored by the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Working with bars in select neighborhoods, the Library brought its message and showcased its resources in fun and playful settings. The events were advertised on social media and in listings in Red Eye newspaper, Time Out Chicago and local blogs. The first 100 guests to RSVP each received a specially designed t-shirt (only available at Library Lounge events). At the event, in addition to displays of the books, movies, music and Playaways available at the Library, there were librarians on hand with laptops to walk folks through how to download ebooks, audio and video from the Library’s website, demonstrate the online catalog and to distribute library cards. An online survey was done at each event to collect contact information of those who wanted to be involved in “junior level” Foundation support. Response to the Library Lounges was immediately enthusiastic. The word of mouth “buzz” about the events grew after just the first event and attendance increased with each evening. At an event in Wicker Park, people waited in line on a hot evening to get into the small bar; one guest waited an hour to get in just so she could get a library card. In addition to reaching the target demographic with our message of library cool, we also created a group of library advocates, who used the opportunity to create new friendships with other attendees.


The 5 Library Lounge events attracted a total of 700 attendees, resulting in 468 library cards issued and 174 requests for more information on how to support the Library through the CPL Foundation. The events garnered much discussion about, and good will toward, the Library on blogs, social media and in “influencer” media like the Chicago Reader, Chicagoist and Red Eye. The overall result was a feeling by the 25-35 year old demographic that the Library was not only relevant to their lives, but in tune with their lives. The 500 CPL branded t-shirts (available only at Library Lounge events) quickly became popular and much-sought after, adding to the “cool” factor associated with the events, and the Library. And the Library Foundation now has a ready made list of possible “junior level” funders.