Library Visit: Hines VA Hospital, IL

Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Hospital
Medical Library
5000 South 5th Avenue
Hines, IL 60141

While making my way through the sprawling buildings and halls of Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital on Friday, I discovered that they have a library. I had about five hours to kill between appointments and figured I’d find a place to hang out and read…who knew it would be in an actual library? Home is close enough, but why drive back and forth when I can sit somewhere and read just as easily as at home?

The library isn’t included in current maps of the hospital complex and that may be because its not a general use public library; it is medical library mainly used by doctors, employees, and the occasional veteran. One of the librarians I talked with said that they’re in the process of considering a new location for the library or perhaps a remodel. I heard someone else telling two visitors that an area of the library may be the location of a new lounge that will serve Starbucks coffee. There’s a coffee shop in the main hospital that already serves Starbucks. The VA is on the ball: no more reliance on nasty coffee vending machines.

Hines VA hospital first opened in 1921. They are currently in the midst of another beautification and modernization project. I haven’t been inside Hines for decades and things have definitely changed for the better. The new women’s clinic which opened there last year is rather swank. I am assuming that the upcoming library move or remodel is part of the larger Hines upgrade.


View from the entrance.

The library currently resides in the north end of building 1, the longest building on the Hines campus. Overall, the library has a late 1960s, early 1970s vibe to it. The librarian told me that they occasionally have to glue down the faux wood grain laminate.

Library map.
View of the study area.

Reference desk and computers for patron use (internet connected).

The library houses primarily medical journals and books as well as a couple dozen or so military reference books. What caught my eye are the shelves of give-away mass market paperback books: lots of mysteries, some military action, with a few classics mixed in. I picked two: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and The Summer Before The Dark by Doris Lessing. If you should find yourself at the Hines library and want to take a book, check with the librarian: people have often walked off with books they thought were free that weren’t.


It’s funny how books pop up when you need them. I’ve long thought about reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Before leaving the house on Friday morning I scrolled through The Independent’s list of The Ten Best History Books and Bury My Heart was on that list. I thought to myself that I really should get around to reading it and then, just a couple of hours later, I stumble across a free copy. If the Gods and Goddesses wanted to send me a clearer message that it was time for me to read this book, I can’t imagine what it would be. (Note to the Gods and Goddess: that is not a challenge!)

Anyway, as I sat in the library and did some reading and paperwork, the steady hum of the industrial strength air conditioners helped to drown out the people whispering (one in English and one in Polish) on their cell phones, which are not supposed to be used in the library, and the voices from the conference room where some folks in a meeting decided it was okay for all of us to hear what they were discussing. Still, this is one of the quieter small libraries that I’ve been in recently. I can’t recall when the last time was that I heard a librarian actually make the “Shh!” sound.

There’s no wifi at the Hines library, which may make it the best library in the area for me and others with short attention spans do some serious writing when using a laptop. I’m still trying to break myself of the delusion that I can “quickly just check my email.”

There are educational displays throughout the library that focus on health or military history. I’ll leave you with a series of pictures of a display that I particularly enjoyed about women’s military service throughout American history. You should be able to click on the image to see a larger, readable version.



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