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Community Landmark: The Newberry Library, Gold Coast Chicago

Newberry Library Gold Coast Chicago

The Newberry Library, Gold Coast Chicago

Chicago’s Newberry Library is a world-renowned independent research library located in the heart of the Gold Coast just a few blocks from Rush Street and the city’s famous Magnificent Mile. The library is home to a massive non-circulating collection of hard-to-find books, as well as manuscripts, photographs, music, maps, and various printed materials collected for the past six centuries.


The Newberry was founded on July 1, 1887 and was first opened to the public on September 6 of that same year. It was established due to a contingent provision under the will of Walter Newberry, a prominent Chicago businessman and Gold Coast resident, which left more than $2 million for a “free, public” library along the northern banks of the Chicago River, provided his two children passed away without any issue.

The library’s first librarian was William Frederick Poole, who was also the first librarian at the Chicago Public Library, where he served for several years. With Poole at its helm, the library acquired about 25,000 books during the first year and a half. After his tenure ended in 1894, the library had a collection that featured over 120,000 volumes and 44,000 pamphlets.

The Newberry’s collection of volumes included rare Pio Resse and Henry Probasco Collections from Europe, which were the library’s first major en bloc acquisitions. Also included were numerous American journals which covered various subjects such as chemistry, electricity, engineering, mechanics, and more.


The Newberry offers free public tours every Thursdays at 3 pm and Saturdays at 10:30 am. Public tours are open for visitors of all ages. For those interested in scheduling a group tour, reservations are required and can be scheduled through contacting the library’s Office of Events at 312-255-3595.


The Newberry hosts and organizes a wide array of programs that shed light on various topics in the humanities. These programs are available in a variety of different formats designed for the specific subject: music and dance performances, workshops, lectures, staged readings, panel discussions, and more.

Some of the programs such as their Meet the Author talks, Programs for Genealogists, and Conservations at the Newberry are part of an ongoing series, while others are yearly events, such as the Bughouse Square Debates and the Newberry Book Fair.

Nearly all of the public programs hosted at the Newberry are free of charge and require no advanced registration for interested participants.

Research visits

Any person at least 14 years of age or currently in the ninth grade may register for a reader’s card and start browsing through Newberry’s extensive collection.

The library’s collection is mainly focused on the humanities, a broad category that encompasses various academic disciplines, including art, history, foreign cultures and languages, literature, music, philosophy, and religion.

Those who would like to find out if the library’s collection is ideal for their research interests may look through their Core Collections, or check their Online Catalog. The Newberry’s librarians have also compiled several Research Guides, which are all organized alphabetically by subject in order to help researchers.

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