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Newberry Library Visit Tips

A first-time visit to a large research library like the Newberry Library can be overwhelming.  However, if you know what to expect and prepare in advance, the experience can be very rewarding.  In preparation for your trip to the Newberry Library, CAGGNI offers a few tips that should make your visit less stressful and, hopefully, more successful.  In addition to these tips, be sure to visit the Newberry Library’s website at

Getting There

  • Location: The Newberry Library is located at 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60610; 312-943-9090
  • Hours: The library reading rooms are open Tuesday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.  The Lobby area may be accessed at 8:15 a.m.
  • Directions: For both driving and public transportation directions to the Newberry Library click on the “Visit” tab, then “Plan Your Visit” tab, then “Directions” tab.
  • Parking: Discounted parking ($8 for 0-8 hours; $10 for 8-10 hours) is available at 100 West Chestnut Street (enter on Clark Street) and 100 East Walton Street (valet service).  Be sure to have your parking ticket validated at the security desk.
  • Handicapped parking: If anyone has a handicapped placard or license plate, they may park in the Newberry parking lot for free.  The lot is accessible from Oak Street.  Just make sure you provide the security officer with your license plate number.

What to Bring
Of course you will bring your personal research tools along with notepaper and writing utensils including pencils, but what else might be helpful?

  • Laptop: If you have a laptop, bring it along.  The library has Wi-Fi and you will be able to use your laptop to access the library’s extensive webpage, catalog and genealogy databases without waiting for a library computer to become available.
  • Camera: The library does not allow the use of scanners, but digital and phone cameras with the flash turned off may be used to “copy” documents.
  • Flash drive: Bring a thumb drive along and you will be able to copy information from the microform reader/scanner.  This will save you 50 cents per impression.

Items to Have Handy

  • Quarter:  Why a quarter? Because all coats, large bags or purses, computer cases, food, etc. must be placed into a locker before entering the library proper.  Laptop bags also must be stored. A quarter is required to activate the locking system.  You will get it back when your return the locker key.
  • Identification: If you don’t already have a Newberry Library reader’s card, you will need to fill out a form and provide a form of government-issued identification with a photograph, e.g., driver’s license, passport, state ID card, etc. 
  • Cash: Using the microform reader/printer to make paper copies (50 cents per page) or using the library’s online printing system (10 cents per page) will require paying the librarian at the end of the day.  Have a few dollars available in your pocket.

Things to Know

  • Entering main library: Before entering the reading rooms of the library, you must show your Newberry Library reader’s card or your ID card to the security guard, sign in and note the time of your arrival. 
  • Parking validation: Get your parking ticket validated from the security guard upon entering so you don’t forget at the end of the day.
  • Reader’s card: If you don’t already have a reader’s card, the security guard will direct you to the third floor.  There you will fill out a Reader Registration form, show your ID with current address and receive a reader’s card which will be valid for one year.  If your ID does not include your address, you can provide a recent piece of mail as proof; otherwise, you will receive a one-day card.
  • Seating: When you arrive on the 2nd floor to work on genealogy, you must stop at the circulation desk, sign in, and show the attendant your reader’s card.  Ask to sit near the genealogy section.  The assistant will assign you a seat and give you a small green card with the seat number on it.  When you leave the library for the day, return the card to the circulation desk.
  • Electrical outlets: There are outlets on the floor under all of the reading tables.
  • Computers: On the second and third floors there are several computers which may be used to access the catalog, electronic databases and the Internet.  They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Since they print to a central printer on each floor, be sure to pick up your print-outs immediately so your pages are not mixed with other patron’s work.
  • Microform readers: The library has several types of microform readers on the second floor.  Microform readers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and do not need to be assigned.  The two microfilm readers next to the reference desk are reserved for patrons actively making prints or digital scans.
  • Reference librarians: There is always a reference librarian on duty on both the second and third floors.  They are all very helpful.  Do not hesitate to ask for assistance.
  • Leaving main library: On the first floor, the security guard will go through all of your materials, including purses, before opening the gate.  If you are leaving for the day, you may or may not be asked to sign out.

A Few Rules

  • Requesting materials from the Closed Stacks: With the exception of general reference books and some microforms, most of the Newberry Library’s collection must be requested via a call slip.  You will need to fill out a form including the call number, your seat number, the date, author, title, and your name and address and then drop the form in a box at the second floor circulation desk. A library assistant will bring the requested materials directly to your table.  When you are finished with the materials, return them to the circulation desk.
  • Paging times: Closed stack materials may be requested Tuesday through Friday 9:00 a.m. – Noon and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00 a.m. – Noon. 
  • Non-circulating: The holdings of the Newberry Library are non-circulating.  Everything must be used in the library.
  • Photocopies: The Newberry staff makes all photocopies.  There are no self-service coin-operated copy machines.  To read the rules, click on the “Research” tab on the Newberry website, then the “Services for Readers and Researchers” and then the “Rights and Reproductions” tab. To receive copies the same day, they should be requested approximately two hours before closing.   All photocopies are picked up and paid for in the Bookstore.
  • Due to an agreement with, you will not be able to access your personal subscription using Newberry’s Wi-Fi.  Only the Newberry’s subscription is available.
  • Cell phones: Phones may be brought into the library, but must be turned to “silent.”  If you need to make a call, the library requests you leave the reading room and conduct your business in the hallway. 


  • Galleries: The exhibit galleries are open Monday, Friday and Saturday 8:15 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 8:15 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.  So, if you arrive early, there is always something to enjoy while you wait for the Library to open.
  • Bookstore: A two story bookstore, with a selection of genealogy books, is on the premises.  Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Friday 10:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Lunchroom: Bring your own lunch and eat in the Newberry’s small lunchroom or purchase snacks from the library vending machines (sodas, snacks, coffee, etc.)
  • Washington Square:  If you would like to clear your head, beautiful Washington Square Park is across the street from the library and a great place to enjoy your lunch on a sunny day.

Preparing for the Visit from Home

  • Online Catalog: Make use of Newberry’s online catalog to determine what resources may be of use to you.  If you find titles of interest, you can send the call numbers to your phone or email for easy retrieval.  The online catalog is accessible under the “Catalogs and Guides” link.
  • Online Resources/Electronic Databases: Review the list of electronic databases available at the library and select which ones you may wish to access during your visit.  These are also located under the “Catalogs and Guides” link as “Electronic Databases.”  Some databases of interest are ProQuest’s Chicago Tribune and New York Times, (Fold3)/ (Footnote),, JSTOR, New England Ancestors and Sanborn Maps for Illinois.
  • Guides/Pathfinders: Review the guides prepared by the Newberry librarians including general collection, geographic, ethnic and military guides by clicking on the “Genealogy Research” link, then “Genealogy Collection Guides and Research Tools.”
  • Family Research Files: These files are arranged by surname and placename and include a wide-range of materials from pedigree charts and brochures to copies of vital records and photographs. A 100-page PDF of the holdings can be viewed by clicking on the “Genealogy Research” link, then “Genealogy Collection Guides and Research Tools” and scrolling down the page to the heading “Family Research Files.” These resources are not listed in the online catalog.
  • Website: Spend some time looking through Newberry’s website for many additional resources not included in the online catalog such as the City Directories Collection, Modern Manuscript Collection, and Cartographic Collection.

What Else

  • Local restaurants: At the first floor security desk, a list of nearby restaurants is available.

If you take time to prepare in advance, you will have a much more enjoyable visit.  You will also have a much better chance of success.  Good hunting!

                                                                                                                                April 12, 2013 

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