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'll provide our visitors with more opportunities to interact with collections and staff—just steps after entering the Newberry.

When the six-month project is complete, the public will have access to a variety of new and redesigned spaces, such as 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. 

Inside Construction

Grab your hard hat and step inside the construction zone. Pictured here: the vestibule of the main entrance, the gallery that will become a new permanent exhibition space, and a hallway whose wall niches will display additional items from the Newberry’s collection.

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 June 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 is designing the Newberry’s renovation?

The renovation is being 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.

Will construction limit my access to the Newberry’s collection?

Access to the collection will not be impeded in any way. We will keep our regular reading room hours during construction, and will continue to offer extended hours for Fellows and Scholars-in-Residence.

Will you continue to offer collection presentations for visiting classes?

We will continue to offer these presentations. However, temporary space constraints during construction will limit the number of class visits we can accommodate. If you’d like to inquire about bringing your class to the Newberry to view our collection, please use the Group Visit Request Form on our website.

Where can I enter the library during construction?

From early January through late April, 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). For a brief period (late April - mid-May), the north entrance will be closed. The main entrance (along Walton Street) will reopen at this time; meanwhile, ADA-accessible entry will be available through an elevator located just east of the north entrance. 

Will it be safe to enter the Newberry while it’s under 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 will be 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 soon after the end of construction, 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.

How will Newberry public programs be affected by construction?

We plan to offer a variety of public programs during construction. We will do so by continuing to use Ruggles Hall (access to which will be interrupted for about three weeks in June 2018) and by making use of other parts of our building. Unfortunately, the scope of the renovation—which calls for redesigned thematic galleries and a new permanent exhibition gallery—will prohibit us from opening any public exhibitions in the first half of 2018.

Will I still be able to rent space for weddings and other private events?

The Newberry will continue to host weddings and other special events, though the scope of the project will create limitations. Ruggles Hall will remain available, as will our wedding suite and restrooms. The lobby, however, will be a significant part of the 2018 project and will be unable to accommodate events. Please contact our Events Office for more information: (312) 255-3605.

Will you have Book Fair in the summer of 2018?

Yes, we will!