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.

We'll unveil the different parts of the first floor in stages over the summer and fall of 2018. The schedule of openings includes:

  • August 14: Herget Welcome Center, where visitors can learn about the Newberry and sign up for reader's cards; Rosenberg Bookshop, the Newberry's renovated bookstore, expanded by 50% to offer a wider selection of books, gifts, and Newberry swag. (The welcome center, originally scheduled to open in early July, will open August 14 as a result of revised construction timelines.)
  • September 13: From the Stacks, a new permanent exhibit showcasing a rotating display of highlights from our collection.
  • September 28: Pictures from an Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World's Fair, the first major show in our redesigned galleries for temporary, thematic exhibits.

State of the Spaces

With the construction phase of our renovation winding down, we’ll be preparing to welcome visitors into the new-and-improved first floor throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall of 2018. Follow our progress as we close the book on construction and get ready to unveil the new spaces!


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 making a number of structural and aesthetic changes to improve the library’s visibility and accessibility. These changes include 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 have you renovated the Newberry’s first floor? And why now?

How long has construction lasted?

Why have you renovated 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 include a welcome center; permanent exhibition gallery; redesigned galleries for temporary, thematic exhibitions; expanded bookstore; a lounge area; and flexible spaces for public programs and event rentals.

How long has construction lasted?

The seven-month construction period started January 2018. We now plan to furnish and prepare the various first-floor spaces for visitors throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. We’ll unveil the different parts of the first floor in stages, beginning with our new welcome center and expanded bookshop on August 14 and culminating in the opening of Pictures from an Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair, our next major exhibit, on September 28.

How much has the renovation cost, and how has the Newberry paid for it?

The renovation project cost $12.7 million, and is being funded as part of a comprehensive fundraising 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. We’ve exceeded our campaign goal of $30 million. However, we continue to raise much-needed funds to ensure the vitality of the Newberry now and into the future.

If you are interested in making a gift to support the project, please contact Katy Orenchuk, Vice President for Development, at (312) 255-3560.

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?

From early January to late 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).

When will the Newberry Bookstore re-open?

The Newberry Bookstore is closed while it is redesigned, expanded, and relocated to a different part of our first floor (the space formerly occupied by the Smith exhibition gallery). When the bookstore reopens August 14, 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.