Under construction since January, the Newberry’s first floor and lower level will soon re-open to the public, having been transformed as part of a $12.7-million renovation to create a more welcoming, engaging environment for visitors, scholars, and lifelong learners.
“Ann Beha Architects and general contractors Bulley and Andrews have done terrific work on this project, and we are eager to share the results of the renovation with the public,” said Newberry President David Spadafora.
The construction phase of the project, lasting nearly seven months and covering 23,000 square feet, will conclude in time for the 2018 Newberry Book Fair starting July 26. Book Fair shoppers will be among the first to glimpse the Newberry’s new and improved first floor. Visitors will be able to experience the renovated spaces in their full capacity starting August 14 with the opening of a new welcome center, an expanded bookshop, and an adjoining lounge.
The schedule of public openings includes:
- August 14: Herget Welcome Center and Rosenberg Bookshop
- September 13: From the Stacks, a permanent exhibit featuring a rotating display of highlights from the Newberry’s collection.
- September 28: Pictures from an Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair, the first major exhibit to take place in the redesigned galleries for thematic shows.
“This renovation promises to have a transformational impact on the ways in which visitors engage with us and our collections,” Spadafora noted. “Through structural and aesthetic changes to our building’s entry, lobby, and main floor, we’re encouraging more people to come inside, learn who we are, and join our community of learning. Beyond improving the points of entry, our project has made it possible for the Newberry to become more of a cultural destination than ever before, with new opportunities for visitors to interact with our collections and staff right after entering the library.”
Key renovation features include improved landscaping and nighttime lighting making the exterior of the building more open and visible; an ADA entrance adjacent to the front doors, which improves accessibility; a welcome center where visitors can learn how to use the Newberry’s collections and sign up as readers or register for programs; 3,000 square feet of gallery space for free thematic exhibits as well as a rotating display of books, maps, manuscripts, and other items showcasing the strengths of the collection; a climate-controlled seminar room allowing groups to work directly with collection items and library staff; an expanded bookshop and adjoining coffee lounge; and two new event spaces seating 65-85 people each.
Award-winning Ann Beha Architects designed the Newberry renovation. In designing new exhibition areas and cases, as well as spaces for study and engagement, their work introduces new elements intended to advance the Newberry’s educational mission while reinvigorating important features of the building’s original design.
Ann Beha FAIA and Steven Gerrard AIA noted, “We have been honored and challenged by this project, addressing a key Chicago landmark, reconsidered for a broader audience and new generation of scholars and visitors. Our design was twofold—renewal and recapture of the historic fabric, some of which was newly discovered, coupled with contemporary interventions in these remarkable settings. For us, this project is about collections and content, making extraordinary resources more legible and available.”
Funding for the Newberry’s renovation has come from a comprehensive fundraising campaign that is also supporting other activities that are essential to the Newberry’s mission, such as improving access to collections, presenting engaging public programs and exhibitions, and investing in staff. With six months remaining in the campaign, the Newberry has exceeded its goal of $30 million but continues to encourage anyone interested in supporting the future of the library to add to the total of these much-needed funds.