Newberry Library History


The Newberry Library occupies an important place in the history of Chicago and, more generally, in American library history. Founded in 1887 by a bequest of Chicago businessman Walter Loomis Newberry (1804-1868), the Newberry has welcomed countless readers and visitors to its Romanesque-style building on Washington Square Park. Over the years, the Newberry has succeeded in building an eminent collection of books, manuscripts, maps, and other materials relevant to scholars of many disciplines. The history of the Newberry Library can offer insights on Chicago cultural and intellectual life, the ever-evolving emphases of American collecting and scholarly discourse, library building design, history of professional librarianship, and the role of libraries in a technology-driven world, among other things.

To find primary and secondary sources related to the Newberry Library, you can search for “Newberry Library” as a subject term in our online catalog.

The Archives of the Newberry include the library’s institutional records, the records of the Newberry estate, and personal papers of staff members and trustees. The following print and online resources are necessary tools for using the Archives:

A Guide to the Newberry Library Archives. Comp. Martha T. Briggs. Alison A. Hinderliter, and Cynthia H. Peters. Chicago: Newberry Library, 1993. Call Number: Ref CD3209.C5 B754 1993.

Brief abstracts of other manuscript collections related to various staff members, donors, trustees, and researchers may be found here.

Bergman, Jed I. Managing Change in the Nonprofit Sector: Lessons from the Evolution of Five Independent Research Libraries. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996. Call Number: Ref Z 675 .R45 B47 1995. Chapter 3 pertains to The Newberry Library.

History of the Newberry Library

Humanities’ Mirror: Reading at the Newberry, 1887-1987. Comp. and ed. Rolf Achilles. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 1987. Call Number: Ref Z733 .N797 H86 1987.

The Newberry 125: Stories of Our Collection. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2012. Call Number: Ref Z733 .N797 N39 2012b.

Newberry Library entry in the Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 2005).

Towner, Lawrence. An Uncommon Collection of Uncommon Collections: The Newberry Library. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 1985. Call Number: Ref Z733 .C5255 1985.

Wetherald, Houghton. "The Architectural History of the Newberry Library." The Newberry Library Bulletin (November 1962). Wetherald also wrote an MA thesis on this subject (Call Number: Ref Z733 .N797 W58 1964).

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