To help further the Newberry’s mission to preserve and foster knowledge throughout the world, the library has embarked on The Campaign for Tomorrow’s Newberry, a $25-million fundraising initiative to expand upon the depth and breadth of the library’s magnificent collections; digitize original materials; make critical physical improvements to the library; provide important support for staff development; and strengthen the institution’s endowment.
“The Newberry is a place of strong history and tradition, but it is also moving to stay current and receptive to changes in technology and venues for academic exchange,” Spadafora said. “Our collections are crucial to the study of the humanities, and we are helping shape the future of research by continually improving our library and its materials. The impact of what we do now will resonate for generations.”
One of only a handful of top-tier independent research libraries in the country and perhaps the world, the Newberry is home to collections spanning six centuries that hold roughly 1.5 million books, 5 million manuscript pages, and 500,000 cartographic items. Some of the library’s rarest materials include a Shakespeare first folio; the first bible printed in North America; a variety of first editions of Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Ulysses and other literature; a fifteenth-century Ptolemy map that is a foundation for modern cartography; Thomas Jefferson’s copy of The Federalist Papers (with his notations); William Clark’s account book; and roll chronicles of the kings of France up to Charles VII.
Perhaps rarest of all is the Newberry’s admission policy: the library is entirely free, and all of its collections and resources are available to any member of the public who is over the age of 15 (or at least a junior in high school) and has a photo ID.
Strengthening the Collections
Home to items unavailable anywhere else in the world, the Newberry seeks to grow its collections in both depth and breadth, keeping them relevant for scholarship. To define itself in the 21st century, the Newberry plans to bolster its areas of strength by expanding its key collections:
Maps, Travel, and ExplorationAmerican Indian and Indigenous StudiesReligionHistory of the BookGenealogy and Local HistoryThe Renaissance and Early Modern WorldAmerican History and CultureChicago and the MidwestMusic and the Performing Arts
Building a Better Library
Already funded and underway is expansion of shelf capacity in our Stacks Building, a 10-level, temperature-controlled facility that is home to the vast majority of our priceless collections. The installation of compact shelving on two floors will add about 18 percent to our book-storage capacity and save a full 50 percent of floor space, enabling the library to continue to acquire rare and unique books and manuscripts for generations to come.
Since its original construction in 1892, the Newberry’s main lobby has undergone small, practical changes, such as the installment of a book store and necessary security additions, creating an unintentionally intimidating entrance for visitors. To provide the welcoming atmosphere appropriate to a free and open cultural institution, the library will renovate the lobby to create an Orientation Center, reposition and expand its bookstore, and open a café.
Strengthening Our Endowment
A top priority for the Newberry is ensuring that future generations of scholars, students, and the general public continue to have unfettered access to its rich collections and resources. To help achieve that goal, the Newberry is offering opportunities to endow professional staff positions, such as curators of special collections. These additional resources will further improve the library’s already-superb service to its visitors.
As the world moves more resolutely and creatively into the new era of digitized information, a key opportunity is to make the Newberry’s collections more accessible to an expanding online audience. A digital innovation fund will support the library’s core digital activities and staff training in new technologies that not only broaden access to items in the collections and increase the Newberry’s audience, but also enable interpretation of items.
Through the campaign, the Newberry seeks to increase annual giving by one-third, which will help the institution with important operational needs and initiatives, such as crucial climate-control upgrades.
The Newberry was founded in 1887 as a public library by a bequest of Walter Loomis Newberry, a businessman and prominent citizen who had been an active book collector, founder of the Young Men’s Library Association, and president of the Chicago Historical Society before his death in 1868. When he drew up his will, Mr. Newberry created a codicil should his daughters die without issue. Since Chicago had no public library at the time, he determined that in such an instance a public library should be established in the northern section of the city.
For more information on the Newberry or the campaign, visit www.newberry.org