The Newberry Library has completed the installation of a new compact shelving system on the lowest three floors of its thirty-year-old, ten-floor Stacks Building. This project was undertaken between July 21, 2011 and January 1, 2012. Compact shelving is very common in new or renovated archival repositories and libraries.
The Newberry Library is a privately-funded research library that is open to the public, located at 60 West Walton Street on the Near North Side of Chicago. This year, it will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its foundation in 1887.
The new system will hold twice as many books as the old system. Over the past decade, the Book Stack Building reached capacity.
This construction project has been funded by the late Gerald F. Fitzgerald, Sr., a longtime Trustee of the Newberry Library who died in 2010, and his widow, Marjorie. “Our Stack Building had come very close to reaching its full capacity,” Newberry President & Librarian David Spadafora said. “The Fitzgerald family’s support enables us to improve and consolidate our storage arrangements and keep acquiring important new materials for many years. We are extremely grateful to them for their dedication to the Newberry and its mission.”
The Newberry Library’s book collection consists of approximately 1,500,000 books, including, the first Bible published in North America; fifteenth-century volumes based on Ptolemy that are foundational for cartography; an illustrated roll chronicle of the kings of France down to Charles VII; the only Shakespeare first folio in Chicago; an extremely rare first edition of Don Quixote; and Thomas Jefferson’s copy of The Federalist: A Collection of Essays (“The Federalist Papers”). Other collections include 5,000,000 manuscript pages (15,000 cubic feet), including illustrated handwritten manuscripts from Medieval Europe and modern manuscripts from Europe, the U.S., and The Philippines; 500,000 historic maps; atlases; sheet music; and archival documents, including the corporate archives of railroad corporations and the personal papers of Midwestern writers and politicians.
These collections are non-circulating. Other than those portions that can be glimpsed on-line, they can only be read in person, on-site.
Most of the Newberry Library’s materials are stored in the Stack Building, an environmentally controlled facility that was erected as an addition to the library building in 1982. For the compact-shelving project, the Newberry Library hired TAB Products Co LLC, a company with more than sixty years’ experience in records-management and storage systems and widely regarded as expert in the field. The Newberry Library and TAB staff worked together to keep materials secure and in good order by keeping every item on-site throughout the project.
“This is a great achievement for our staff, who throughout the project worked hard to ensure that our collections remained safe and well-cared for; that the project was completed on time; and, most important, that the impact on our readers and their research was kept to a minimum,” Newberry Library Vice President Hjordis Halvorson said. “We’re very pleased with the entire team at TAB, which did excellent work and was a great partner.”
The Newberry Library launched a fundraising campaign called the “Campaign for Tomorrow’s Newberry” that is designed to raise $25,000,000 by the end of 2012. For the first two years, this capital campaign was not a matter of public knowledge and the Newberry Library quietly raised $15,200,000 from donors who were already associated with the institution.
As the Newberry Strategic Plan of 2008 developed, then creation of additional stack capacity was identified as a high priority. With the compact shelving, the Newberry Library states it “will gain the equivalent of one new floor of stack space, which will include both general collection and special collection materials, including ½ floor of archival storage.”
The Newberry Library seems to be re-branding itself by dropping the word “library” from its name. On the Web site and in press releases, it is referred to simply as The Newberry. I will, however, continue to refer to it as the Newberry Library.