Renovating Our First Floor | Newberry

Renovating Our First Floor

We're expanding our community of learning into new parts of the library! In transforming our first floor, we're multiplying your opportunities for interacting with collections and staff—just steps after entering the Newberry.

The six-month construction phase of the project will end mid-July. Then it will be time to put on the finishing touches and prepare the new spaces for prime time. We'll unveil the different parts of the first floor in stages over the summer and fall of 2018. These areas include a welcome center where visitors can learn about the Newberry and register as readers; a climate-controlled seminar room allowing classes and other groups to handle items from our collection; and a permanent exhibition gallery showcasing maps, manuscripts, books, music, and postcards.

The welcome center, originally slated to open in early July, will open at a later date as a result of revised construction timelines.

Construction Junction

Grab your hard hat and step inside the construction zone. Pictured here: the walkway leading into what will become our new ADA accessible entrance, the vestibule of the main entrance, lobby tile restoration, and a gallery that will soon boast a 46-foot-long case for displaying maps, manuscripts, books, and other collection items in our new permanent exhibition space.


Interior Renderings

We’re fostering a more vibrant first-floor environment where scholars and lifelong learners can dive right into history, whether it’s through exhibits, public programs, or hands-on research using our collection.

Exterior Renderings

Welcoming visitors into our building starts outside, and continues into the entry. We’re envisioning a new, inviting landscape featuring digital signage, an accessible entrance to the east of our front doors, and reduced fencing. At night, exterior lighting will accent the beautiful architectural details of our building, which was designed in the early 1890s by Henry Ives Cobb.


Why are you renovating the Newberry’s first floor? And why now?

How long will construction last?

Why are you renovating the Newberry’s first floor? And why now?

The needs of researchers have changed dramatically; so have the ways in which the public uses libraries and other cultural institutions. As technology changes and the expectations among our patrons evolve, renovating our first floor is essential to providing visitors with new pathways into the Newberry’s collection. In addition, this renovation will enable us to continue serving our collection users at the highest level and adapt to their needs over time.

To achieve these goals, we’re fostering a more welcoming environment that will invite visitors to engage with us, our collections, and with one another right after walking through our doors. The new and updated spaces will include an information center, permanent exhibition gallery, redesigned gallery for temporary exhibitions, expanded bookstore, a lounge area, and flexible spaces for public programs and event rentals.

How long will construction last?

Construction will last six months, from early January 2018 through mid-July 2018.

How much will the renovation cost, and how will the Newberry pay for it?

The renovation project will cost about $12 million, and will be funded entirely by generous gifts from Newberry donors. We have already raised significant funds for the project at this time. If you are interested in making a gift to support the project, please contact Katy Orenchuk, Vice President for Development, at (312) 255-3560.

This project is part of a larger campaign called First and Foremost, which will build on the renovation’s goals by investing in library staff; new public programming and exhibition opportunities; and digital, cataloging, and archival initiatives to expand the availability of our materials and the tools for discovering them.

Who designed the Newberry’s renovation?

The renovation was designed by Ann Beha Architects, an award-winning firm with extensive experience updating cultural institutions while staying true to the historic legacies of their buildings.

Where can I enter the library during construction?

From early January through mid-July, the library’s main entrance (the south part of the building, along Walton Street) will be closed. During this time, all visitors will enter through our ADA-accessible north entrance. This entrance is available from the Newberry staff parking lot on Oak Street (between Clark and Dearborn).

Is it safe to enter the Newberry during construction?

Yes. Standard safety practices will be observed throughout the period of construction. To accommodate our visitors and their movement through our first floor, a section of the lobby will be completely enclosed using scaffolding and drywall, containing the construction areas and ensuring everyone’s safety.

Will the Newberry Bookstore be open during construction?

The Newberry Bookstore is closed while it is redesigned, expanded, and relocated to a different part of our first floor (the space currently occupied by the Smith exhibition gallery). When the bookstore reopens in the summer of 2018, it will allow visitors to browse its selection of books and other gifts in greater comfort. An adjoining lounge area will provide guests with space where they can read, use wi-fi, or have a cup of coffee.

Will you have Book Fair in the summer of 2018?

Yes, we will! The 2018 Newberry Book Fair will be held July 26-29 at the Newberry.