Passes hard to get at libraries


Checking out the limited number of free museum and zoo passes from the Chicago Public Library branches can be especially difficult during summer and winter breaks when children are off from school.

"It’s a really popular program," Jefferson Park Library branch manager Eileen Dohnalek said at the July 26 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.

Dohnalek recommended that interested parties call ahead to make sure that a pass is available for the museum which they are interested in visiting. "All the Chicago public libraries have at least two (passes for each of the 17 museums)," she said. "Passes are not something we can hold like library books."

A person can check out only one pass at a time and that if the pass is not returned within seven days, a $2 late fee per day is assessed, and there is a $60 replacement charge for lost passes, Dohnalek said.

Most of the passes are valid for free admission for up to two adults and two children, and each group must have at least one child under age 18 for the pass to be valid. It started years ago as part of a corporate-sponsored program for families, Dohnalek said.

The program’s participants are Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Bronzeville Children’s Museum, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Field Museum and Lincoln Park Zoo.

Also, McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, National Museum of Puerto Rican Art and Culture, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and Shedd Aquarium.

At the places where admission is always free, the pass allows for a discount on items such as parking or gift shop purchases, and the pass is not valid for special exhibits or shows at some museums. The city offers a similar museum pass program, and those passes are available at aldermanic ward offices.

For those library card holders who do not want to carry books or lack time to visit a library, the library system offers a series of applications for eBooks and magazines which can be downloaded to mobile devices, Dohnalek said.

The Jefferson Park branch, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave., hosts speakers on a variety of topics and has three book discussion clubs which meet there. Information on special events is posted at

The branch opened in 1970 and is considered moderate-sized compared to the other branches in the city, and Dohnalek said. "There’s nothing in the works right now," she said of the possibility of a new branch in Jefferson Park.

Some of the of the newer libraries in the city are being built as part of a partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, which maintains apartments above the library, Dohnalek said.

Hours for the Jefferson Park library are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

In other news, the association is co-sponsoring a community garage sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, in the parking lot at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. The cost is $20 per family, and applications are available by calling 773-282-3879.