Explore More offers subsidized museum access to Illinois libraries


Fresh photo of Joanne Hane

The Evanston Public Library is among libraries in Illinois that loan free and discounted tickets to select local museums as part of the Explore More program.

On weekends and summer mornings at the Evanston Public Library, patrons line up at the children’s desk for something both much smaller and infinitely larger than a stack of books: a let pass for the museum.

With a little research and a quick sign-up, the Evanston families can turn a library survey into a glimpse of a T-rex, a 5-foot-tall jade pagoda, or a full Lincoln bust. covered with pennies.

Through Illinois’ Explore More program, EPL and other Illinois libraries can loan free or subsidized tickets to a growing list of Illinois museums, varying slightly by city. The program is a partnership – libraries can contact museums to request passes, and museums can contact libraries to offer passes, as was the case for those on the EPL list.

Ticket lending opens new doors for families who otherwise might not be able to fit trips to the museum into their budget, said Linda Balla, library assistant at EPL.

Illinois museums can choose to offer free or reduced admission to Explore More pass holders. For museums that are already free, the pass can connect attendees to special gift shop offers.

Debbie Fandrei, supervisor of the Raupp Museum, said that when she showed the program to her colleagues at the Illinois Association of Museums, people were especially curious about how successfully the program could be marketed. She remains optimistic that a double effort will help both groups recover from lost traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Once people see what’s out there, they’ll feel inspired to take advantage of it,” Fandrei said.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is the most popular loaner site for EPL, closely followed by the Brookfield Zoo and Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg. Balla said some customers are frustrated that large museums like the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, which tend to partner directly with Chicago’s public library system, aren’t more widely available with Explore More. .

But Patrick Cain, the Grande Prairie’s Museum the museum’s public programs and visitor services coordinator, said keeping the pass geared toward smaller museums provides an opportunity to give residents a taste of unique events and artifacts closer to home.

We want to show (to visitors) that small communities have a big impact, ”Cain said. “I firmly believe that all of history is local. “

In addition to attracting more Illinois residents, many curators and directors have chosen to create greater accessibility to resources. Twania Brewster, vice president of marketing, communications and guest operations at the Chicago Children’s Museum, said the museum is working hard to connect with community organizations to ensure children in the city and its suburbs are safe and sound. measure to “create a basis for cultural appreciation”.

“It’s really important that we try to remove as many barriers as possible to museum visits for young children,” she said.

Fandrei said that while the subsidized ticket prices are a good start towards accessibility to cultural literacy for young people, there are still many barriers to consider, such as location and cost of travel.

The Raupp Museum has worked with Buffalo Grove Park Districts to emphasize free admission to the museum as part of county community services, she said, and recently launched a bilingual exhibit in partnership with the Korean Cultural Center in Chicago. Likewise, the Chicago Children’s Museum has expanded to pop-up locations in Little Village, Aurora and Lawndale, the latter two of which are outdoors, and continues to create virtual programming.

“The whole idea of ​​making public history is that the public can come and see you,” Fandrei said. (Ours) is a story to share. The more people who can be a part of it, the better. I don’t want the cost to be a barrier.

For a full list of museum tickets and discounts available for loan, Evanston residents with a valid EPL library card can use their card number and PIN to log into the Explore More website.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @ilana_arougheti

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