Cartographic Treasures | Newberry

Cartographic Treasures

So as I continue to shift things in preparation for the Grand Renovation, I am finding memorabilia which was set aside while my back was turned. Just last week I turned up a cache of bookmarks and maps from the 1993 Book Fair. Over the weekend, I had a box of books donated with a map from the 2003 Book Fair, used as a bookmark. (So what did they use the bookmark for? Or maybe they bought more books than…I’ll think about it tomorrow.)

Each of these years was a landmark in Book Fair design. It looks as if the 1993 Book Fair was the first to have FOUR rooms, while the 2003 version was one of two where we had seven. This is not material you will find in less detailed histories of the Newberry.

The first thing I noticed about the 1993 map was the cunning little dotted line to show you how to get through this huge, confusing maze. You needed to start at Room 1 (we counted from the east instead of from the west, so that’s the big room you know as Room 6.) Proceeding through rooms 2 and 3 (now rooms 5 and 4) and then CROSS THE LOBBY to get to Room 4 (now Room 3). Having completed this complex trek, you then had to cross a hall to get to Checkout. Pause for a second; I’m a little winded.

What we now call Rooms 1 and 2 were not in use for Book Fair purposes; that lay in the future. Once we started using them, though, the future knew no bounds, and we eventually stretched to all six rooms we know today, PLUS Room 7. There were actually—I don’t know—two to three separate parts to Room 7, as we used the basement bathroom waiting area, and one or two classrooms. At one point, a vigilante group decided the classroom wasn’t getting enough customers, and moved the entire section into the fire lane. That may have been 2004.

We always had that problem using that part of the basement. “Why don’t you put something more popular down there and make people want to go there?” the critics demanded. “Oh, and by the way, security’s not very good down there.” No connection was made between the two concepts. I see by the map that we put “How To” in Room 7, along with “Self Help”, a category we’ve never actually put on our signs at the Book Fair. I think someone hit the Synonym button on the computer.

We really confused people later. After we stopped using the basement rooms, we called the Checkout room Room 7. We had complaints (always on behalf of other people) that this was confusing, since it wasn’t a room with books for sale, and therefore shouldn’t be included in the count. Hence the 6 numbered rooms so beloved by modern customers. (And one unnumbered room that people still can’t seem to figure out. I’m still waiting for a customer to say “Checkout? I haven’t checked in yet!”

What’s interesting is that Room 4 (or Room 3 in the day when we still had payphones in the hallway) did not essentially change. In the 1993 map and the 2003 map and, for that matter, the 2017 map, that room was essentially the Mystery, Science Fiction, Romance, Fiction room. And the little room next to it, which in 1993 still had bathroom tile and a door that opened into thin air from the second floor (unfinished business from the previous renovation) was the home of the Children’s books. We really have been making it easy for the customers to find their favorites. (I’ll have to check older maps—if any—but I betcha Literature and Reference have been in the big room pretty much since the First Fair.)

The outside of the maps also provides food for thought. A lot of space is wast…spent on the Bughouse Square Debates, in 1993 even printing the whole program. That year, a corner of the park was set aside for children’s storytelling, and another corner apparently featured a poetry slam. In 2003, there was a dramatic recreation of the speeches of Joe Hill and just one poet. One of the speakers at the 1993 debates was on the program for 2003 (He was a crowd pleaser and we wouldn’t mind having him back if he hadn’t gone and died without asking our permission.) If it comes to that, one of the Book Fair Committee members is on both maps (although two from 1993 seem to have been left off the 2003 map accidentally; I know they were there.)

And by 2003, we were seeking establishments to provide lunches for the volunteers. This is why the world needs to preserve these bits of paper ephemera: there’s Chicago history in them there pages. I’m sure five of the food donors were outfits which are now out of business, and I’m not positive about two more. Chicago is rough on its restaurants.

And surely somebody wants to study the history of our Welcome Table and our Squirreling Areas. We didn’t CALL it a squirreling area in 1993, but the map does mention such a spot. I hope there’s a picture in the archives: see, we took a piece of floor space and divided it into rectangles with masking tape, and numbered….

It’ll have to wait until I get my grant to produce The Annotated Book Fair Map. Soon to be for sale at the renovated Bookstore.

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