Introducing Chicago Public Library’s new and improved website, accessible on your phone or tablet so you can take the library with you on the go! The website features an improved library catalog and search features and greater accessibility so that library resources are always right at your fingertips.


CPL has partnered with software company BiblioCommons to re-envision the library’s online experience which included the site’s development, research, design, and ongoing enhancements that will be rolled out over the next three years. The new online experience integrates with the library’s catalog, showcasing the Library’s diverse range of collections, events, and services. CPL is the first library system to date to launch this innovative online platform. The new website, catalog, and mobile apps are all “software as a service” providing the foundation for continuous innovation while reducing the need for costly in-house infrastructure and staff technical expertise.

You’ll immediately notice the more customer-friendly features, including the ability to create a unique user name and PIN, keep a history of what you have checked out and a wish list of what you want to borrow in the future. You can also rate titles, as well as write and read reviews of books, movies and music – visible not only to other CPL patrons, but also to the community of the 200 libraries around the world currently using BiblioCommons’ catalog platform.

And of course, the new website also adapts to any screen size, like smart phones and tablets; the responsive design ensures users have the same experience–no matter the mobile device. Free apps will also be available for iPhone/iPod Touch and Android.



One year after its launch, food safety application Foodborne Chicago is leveraging technology to help hundreds of Chicagoans report food poisoning incidents to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and make Chicago a safer place to eat. With the help of Twitter, Foodborne Chicago has resulted in 150 restaurant and food service inspections that otherwise may have been reported too late, or not at all.

Foodborne Chicago flags public tweets mentioning cases of food poisoning in Chicago, reviews and replies to those individuals which have legitimate cases of food poisoning, and then directs them to a simple complaint submission form. In its first year, 233 total reports were submitted through Foodborne Chicago. Since the CDC estimates approximately 45% of foodborne illnesses go unreported, these submissions and subsequent restaurant inspections can go a long way towards preventing foodborne illnesses in the city.

Foodborne Chicago was created by Smart Chicago and civic tech developers in partnership with CDPH, and is part of the City’s commitment to using technology to make service requests simple and stress-free. Chicagoans can easily check the status of their food poisoning complaints – and other service requests – at the 311 Service Tracker.

Chicago Public Library recently submitted a proposal to the Knight Foundation #NewsChallenge grant program for their “Hotspot at Home” lending program.

If CPL is chosen for this grant, the pilot program would allow patrons at pilot branches in neighborhoods with extremely low in-home broadband use to check out an Internet Hotspot for three weeks, allowing them access to the Internet at home. Be sure to use the hashtag #NewsMatters when sharing with your networks!  Winners of the grant will be announced on June 23rd.

500px-WIFI_icon.svg[1]These Internet Hotspots are small portable devices that connect multiple devices – mobile phones, tablets and computers – to the Internet. For community members without an Internet capable device, CPL would simultaneously launch a pilot computer-lending program, in which specially-tagged and outfitted laptops or tablets would be loaned in combination with the Hotspots.

Chicago Public Library patrons of all ages come to the library to use the internet for homework help, job searches, and to create email accounts. The Hotspot at Home program would be more convenient for patrons, as well as increase Chicago’s digital skill development and engagement in online communities.

This will also enable CPL to actively support the City’s Tech Plan, which hopes to accelerate job creation, improve the quality of life for all Chicagoans, and provide increased digital access and skills.


Every year, 49,000 people from around the world come to take part in South by Southwest. This year Chicago made sure it was not left out.

The Mayor started out by attending the launch of Chicago Based Inventables new design platform called Easel, which is an easy-to-use, online maker tool allowing anyone to design their creations from home. It’s as easy as point, click, and create. It only took the Mayor five minutes to design this bottle opener.

And we brought our friends. From hackers and engineers like Harper Reed, to major musical artists like Chance the Rapper, the Chicago Made booth had something for innovators, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists and story tellers alike. It was all about showcasing what Chicago is made of, and the kinds of amazing people, ideas and creations that emerge from our city.


( The Choose Chicago Chicago Made Booth)

Did you know that only 5% of technology startups are founded by women?  This week we also announced the creation of a new tech incubator called FEMtech, which will increase opportunities for women-owned tech businesses and startups.

Recently, President Obama announced that Chicago has been awarded a $70 million grant from the Department of Defense to build a Digital Manufacturing and Design Lab – The Digital Lab. Add in the $250 million funding from other private-public partnerships, and Chicago’s got itself a new world-class cutting edge facility in the Goose Island area.

Led by University of Illinois-affiliated UI Labs, which turns academic research into profitable industry solutions, the new innovation institute will seek to address challenges faced by the defense and manufacturing industries.

The key signature of The Digital Lab will be its Digital Manufacturing Commons (DMC).  The DMC is an “open-source software platform that will create networks of people, manufacturing machines, and factories to enable real-time collaboration during design and manufacturing, unlocking significant value for Dept. of Defense and small and large manufacturers across the country.”

In a nutshell: smart people, big ideas, shared tools and practices, instant collaboration, and solutions that are available to everyone, big or small. The Digital Lab basically hopes to be the ideal conception of teamwork in the digital age.

This is what happens when you bring together 41 big-name, high tech manufacturing companies along with 23 of the best Universities, Institutes, and Engineering schools in the country.

If all works out, the Digital Lab as the potential to generate $35 billion in savings for the Dept. of Defense and over $100 billion in value for its many industry partners. The Digital Lab will make their technology accessible to the Chicago region’s manufacturing, business sector, and education centers.

Watch out Silicon Valley, Midwest Manufacturing is moving on up.

Read more from the White House.  Read more from Chicago City Hall. Be sure to check out the Digital Lab website!  Also, follow UI Digital on Twitter for updates: @digitalLab_

Chicago City of Learning, Chicago Public Schools, and Chicago Public Library wants youth, teachers, and mentors to share what you, your classroom, or after school program are doing to celebrate Digital Learning by posting to our Chicago #DLDayGallery.



We are looking for photos, links to student-made websites or digital artifacts, videos – anything that you feel showcases your efforts! We will display it here so others can get inspired by what you’re doing and we can learn from each other.

Send your photos, websites, and digital media – anything that you feel showcases your efforts to! Here are some tips to get you started, learn more about ways you can participate. You can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #DLDAY


R is a powerful statistics program that is a favorite among data scientists. Using R with the City of Chicago data portal has been possible, but R users always needed to handle some residual issues after loading files from the data portal. These issues were also common for Chicago’s data science team, so we’re excited to release the RSocrata package to make the interaction with the Chicago data portal–and any other Socrata data portal–easier for R users.

Using RSocrata

RSocrata is available on CRAN and can be installed and loaded with:


Just use the URL of the datasets from any Socrata site to load data with read.socrata(). Below, the Towed Vehicles dataset is loaded as a dataframe with:

towed.vehicles <- read.socrata("")

You can also use the API Access Endpoint address to load data. Locate the API Access Endpoint address under the Export button and the API menu. You will need to change the “.json” extension to “.csv”. For example, the API Access Endpoint for Towed Vehicles is

Locating API Endpoint

Find the API Endpoint for each dataset.

To use with RSocrata, type:

towed.socrata <- read.socrata("")

Using either the human-readable URL or the API Access Endpoint will make the same call to Socrata and is designed to minimize throttling.

R-friendly loading

There are a couple of benefits from RSocrata. First, date values are loaded in R as POSIX formatted dates, which is not the case using read.csv. Comparing the two methods, read.csv will usually be classified as factors:

towed.csv <- read.csv("") # Reading CSV input
class(towed.csv$Tow.Date) # Check the date classification for 'Tow Date' column
 [1] "factor"
class(salaries.socrata) # Loaded with read.socrata
 [1] "POSIXlt" "POSIXt"

The RSocrata package uses a loop and Socrata’s $offset parameter to minimize throttling from the data portal.

RSocrata is available on CRAN and is open for pull requests on GitHub.