Just uttering the word "Newberry" inspires knowing looks, as this independent research library doubles as a revered Chicago cultural institution. Founded in 1887 by Walter L. Newberry, the Chicago businessman's ideal library was one that was free and open to the public. Admission is still free and open to the public...with a few caveats. Books cannot be checked out and readers must be over 16 and must be researching a topic that is covered in the library's collection. (However, one-day passes are given out to curious booklovers who want to peruse.)
The evolving collection focuses on the humanities, centered primarily on Western Europe and the Americas. Reference librarians offer in-depth research assistance; their services can also be garnered for genealogical research, one of the most frequently used Newberry resources. The extensive public programming includes author events, concerts and exhibits. A seminar schedule of classes designed for adults changes seasonally and includes courses in genealogy, jazz, Chicago history, Victorian culture and public art.
But don't keep your nose buried in a book, as the building itself is a treat: Designed in 1893 by Henry Ives Cobb, the lobby and several of its rooms were restored to its original turn-of-the-century state in 2001. At the same time, the columns were redecorated and a grand chandelier was installed in the elegant Ruggles Hall, which is often rented out for events or weddings.
If you don't have a specific area of research in mind but want to check out the building, try the bookstore (just inside the Walton Street entrance) first. It's filled with books on everything from Chicago history and architecture to calligraphy to literary fiction, and is stocked with gift items for the bibliophiles on your list.
Centerstage Reviewer: Gretchen Kalwinski