Finally, after weeks of great anticipation, I was able to do family research at the Newberry Library! I had been so nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I found the web site to be very difficult to find answers to my questions because the site is so large. I thought I’d give my overall impressions here as well as the answers to basic questions that I had been asking myself so that if someone else is in the same shoes as I was, they could take comfort in the wonderful experience that I had.
There is no dedicated parking for the Library. On the web site, I had read that there are 2 parking lots nearby and that if you bring your ticket into the library for validation, parking would be $7 for up to 8 hours. We arrived at the Newberry on a Saturday at 9am (when the library opens) and were lucky enough to find a street spot directly across from the front door, so I do not know how close the parking lots are. We used our credit card to purchase parking for 2 hours from the paybox nearby. Parking cost $2 per hour. A receipt was printed for us to leave on the dash of our car. My husband did come back out later to purchase another 2 hours. We didn’t quite use 1 hour of that and then we walked to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch and made it back just as our time expired.
As we entered the library, we were greeted by an incredibly friendly gentleman who asked us what we would like to be able to do at the library. I told him that I was going to look at some microfilm on the 2nd floor. He explained that we would have to get a free “Reader’s Card” first and asked for our drivers licenses. I knew this ahead of time, but it was so nice for someone to greet us and answer any questions before I even asked them! It was clear that they don’t expect you to know what you’re doing before you get there and they are happy to help. He clipped the licenses to the application forms and sent us to the 3rd floor and told us which desk to take our form to. We took our forms upstairs and were again greeted by a very friendly young lady. You could just tell that the workers were all going to be helpful and friendly and I would not have felt out of place if I had come alone. She filled in our cards (good for 1 year) and explained how to request books. (I did hear her tell the women in front of us that they could take photos of the books, if they liked.) She informed us that the online catalog was down, but that we could use the physical card catalog instead.
We headed to the 2nd floor where we had to sign in. We were assigned 2 spots at a table to do our work – but we were only interested in the microfilm so we didn’t leave our things there.
We went to the microfilm desk and told her that we didn’t have a catalog number, but we knew which microfilms we wanted to look at. She knew the films immediately and said they were in the cabinets behind her desk. She gave us the microfilms and assigned us to a reader. Each reader is in it’s own roomy cubicle with 1 microfilm reader, 1 microfiche reader and counters for spreading out your materials while you work. We were given a larger cubicle area because 2 of us were working together. I was concerned that I would have a difficult time reading the records, but they were very readable. So I asked if we’d be able to go directly to the microfilm printers because I’d just be running down the list of records in chronological order. If I had been doing a “blind search”, I would have spent time at the reader and then when I found the record I wanted, rewind the film, take it to the printer, and make the copy. She agreed to let us stay at the printers to do our work. I don’t know if it is different on a week day or afternoon, but there were very few people there, so I did not feel rushed at the printer.
When you find the record you’d like to print, you can scan it to a flashdrive for free, or make a paper copy for 50 cents per page. I saw no coin slots, so I’m assuming that after all of your copying was complete, you’d pay the girl assigning the readers, but I had my flashdrive handy, so other than the parking costs, my library trip was free.
Other than the driving downtown, I would feel totally comfortable going back to the Newberry by myself – and that’s saying alot for me!