First and Foremost | Newberry

First and Foremost

December 31, 2018 marked the successful conclusion of the Newberry’s First and Foremost comprehensive campaign. With generous support from individuals, foundations, and corporate donors, the Newberry raised more than $35 million to make possible a variety of activities related to expanding access to the library’s collection and promoting learning in the humanities.


For 130 years, the Newberry has pursued its mission to connect patrons with a world-class collection, supportive staff, and engaging programs that enrich the minds of their participants. Today we are presented with exciting opportunities to serve even more users with increasing effectiveness and creativity. To do so, we have undertaken a $30-million comprehensive campaign, First and Foremost, in order to secure both the enhancement of our facilities in service of our community and to ensure the financial sustainability of the Newberry for the 21st century.

First and Foremost rests on the following four pillars:

  1. Renovation for Innovation: Redesigning our first floor to create spaces that will be more welcoming and effective in meeting the needs of visitors and staff.

  2. Our People and Their Effectiveness: Supporting the work of our staff members by endowing key senior positions, improving staff salaries, and providing effective and ample professional development opportunities for employees at all levels.

  3. Our Collection and Its Use: Increasing funds for collection acquisitions, cataloging, and processing, as well as digitization work, so that our collection can grow and be increasingly accessible to both in-person and online audiences.

  4. Programming for Engagement: Adding funding to support successful existing public and scholarly programs while launching new ventures that will appeal to current and expanded audiences.

The Four Pillars

Pillar 1: Renovation for Innovation

As the entry point to our historic building, the renovated first floor will be the best introduction to the Newberry experience. When visitors arrive to our new information center, they will connect with staff and volunteers to learn more about what the library has to offer. They will also be able to appreciate the redesigned galleries for temporary and permanent exhibitions, new spaces equipped to accommodate a variety of events, and a more inviting and comfortable bookstore. Contributions to the First and Foremost campaign will help transform the Newberry’s public areas into user-friendly spaces that can meet the needs of our growing community.

Renovating Our First Floor

Pillar 2: Our People & Their Effectiveness

The Newberry’s dedicated staff present our collection to thousands of people from around the world. Every year, they assist researchers in the reading rooms; answer reference inquiries received by phone, mail and email; organize seminars for college students, workshops for public school teachers, and conferences for scholars; and undertake a variety of projects to promote and protect the collection. Contributions to the First and Foremost campaign will provide resources to endow key senior positions, increase compensation for junior positions, and provide professional development opportunities for employees at all levels.

First & Foremost: Our People & Their Effectiveness

Pillar 3: Our Collection & Its Use

The Newberry has a comprehensive collection of some 1.6 million books, 5 million manuscript pages, and 600,000 maps, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. Sharing this collection with the public, in person and online, is an important part of the library’s mission and can only happen with the support of our generous donors. Contributions to the First and Foremost campaign will enable the Newberry to purchase additional materials for the collection, while increasing their visibility and accessibility through cataloging, conservation and digital projects.

First & Foremost: Our Collection & Its Use

Pillar 4: Programming for Engagement

Fostering the exchange of ideas among seasoned scholars, first-time researchers, and the general public is also part of the Newberry’s goal to advance the dissemination of knowledge in the humanities. Contributions to the First and Foremost campaign will help us organize more exhibitions, lectures, performances, and conversations intended to engage audiences interested in history, literature, society, and culture. In addition, support to the Newberry’s fellowships program will allow both established and emerging scholars to produce work that advances scholarship in their field, expands understanding of the past, and connects the collection with a contemporary audience.

First & Foremost: Programming for Engagement

Leadership Donors

The Newberry is grateful to all donors who have already made a gift in support of First and Foremost. We would especially like to thank those donors who made notable leadership gifts to the campaign:

  • The Roy and Irene Rettinger Foundation
  • Roger and Julie Baskes
  • Sheli Z. Rosenberg and Burton X. Rosenberg
  • The Davee Foundation
  • Victoria J. Herget and Robert K. Parsons
  • ITW
  • Karla Scherer
  • Anonymous Donor

The Campaign Committee

We extend our sincere thanks to the leadership of our Board of Trustees Campaign Steering Committee. Members include:

  • Vicki Herget, Co-Chair
  • David Hillard, Co-Chair
  • Pete Willmott, Co-Chair
  • Roger Baskes
  • Mark Hausberg
  • Bob Holland
  • David McNeel
  • Cindy Mitchell


Why is the Newberry having a campaign?

What is the significance of the name First and Foremost?

What is the goal of this comprehensive campaign?

What does “comprehensive” mean?

Why should I make a gift to First and Foremost?

Will smaller donations make a difference?

How will gifts to the campaign be recognized?

How can I make a gift?

Why is the Newberry having a campaign?

The Newberry is supported through a combination of charitable donations, endowment investments, and income which covers the ongoing work of the library. A campaign funds special initiatives that will strengthen the library and provides additional income to be used on major projects such as the renovation of the first floor.

What is the significance of the name First and Foremost?

First and Foremost reflects the direction this campaign will take the Newberry. New exhibition, orientation, and meeting spaces on our renovated first floor; increased staff development; enhanced visibility of and accessibility to our collection; new and innovative programming—all of this will further place the Newberry “first and foremost” in the minds of our scholarly community, the city of Chicago, and on a national scale.

What is the goal of this comprehensive campaign?

The goal is to raise $30 million, and, as of February 2018, we have raised approximately 80% of the funds. We look forward to celebrating the successful culmination of the campaign in December 2018.

What does "comprehensive” mean?

This type of campaign means that all funds raised—gifts to the Annual Fund, estate gifts, contributions designated to the renovation project, and other project-based giving—are included in the campaign total. A comprehensive campaign is a wonderful way for donations of all sizes to have a great impact on the Newberry.

Why should I make a gift to First and Foremost?

The Newberry thrives thanks to the generosity of its donors. As we strive to increase access to our collection, renovate the building to serve the growing needs of our patrons, and provide ever-expanding public programming, that support is more important than ever. Whether you are a reader, seminar attendee, scholar, student, exhibition attendee, or just someone who loves the Newberry, this campaign will have a positive impact on how you use the library. By joining our loyal supporters, your contribution will ensure our success, and enable the Newberry to grow and evolve to meet the needs of our patrons for years to come.

Will smaller donations make a difference?

Supporting the campaign is not about donating a specific dollar amount. Participation and engagement are also extremely important. Gifts to the campaign not only support our financial goals—they also help foster our community’s sense of connection with, and investment in, the Newberry. When a greater number of community members engage with the campaign—at every donation level—it inspires others to lend their support, affirms the value and prestige of the Newberry, and creates a sense of community around our stakeholders.

How will gifts to the campaign be recognized?

Gifts to the campaign will be recognized in the Annual Report, on the First and Foremost web portal, and during a series of events in the fall.

How can I make a gift?

They are three easy ways to make a gift.

  • Give online at
  • Call the Development Office at (312) 255-3581
  • Mail a check payable to the Newberry Library to 60 West Walton, Chicago, IL 60610, Attn: Development Office

If you would like to speak to someone about your support of the campaign, please contact Katy E. Orenchuk, Vice President for Development, at (312) 255-3560 or via email at