How to Navigate the Newberry Book Fair







In addition to 145,000 books, thousands of CDs and DVDs, hundreds of LPs, thousands of postcards, and a Peruvian blow gun, the Newberry Library Book Fair, opening to the public July 26 and ending July 29, offers shoppers the first view of its newly renovated first floor.


Dan Crawford.

According to Dan Crawford, Book Fair Director, who somehow manages to keep his Zen outlook while pricing nearly a quarter of a million items for its three-day run:

“The contractors promised that we would be able to use four of the new rooms, and it will be a thrill a minute for our shoppers—great air conditioning, higher ceilings, better lighting, fancier lockers, and a great way to place the ten percent more books we are offering this year, some priced as low as $2 dollars.

“Some of our specialties this year come from the 90 boxes of books donated by the Lincoln Park Zoo, including a polar bear stud book and tips on running a zoo; one of the first board games using lasers in the pieces; several 8×10 glossies of the Santa Fe Railroad; and the seven-foot blow gun used by natives in Peru, donated by one of our staff members. The old postcards are great but definitely not from our large collection.

“Our collectibles section, with some items at silent auction, includes a Smith College yearbook showing Sylvia Plath in her senior year, a 1984 tea set from a remarkable estate given to the Newberry with only one tea cup having been used, the pamphlet from Stephen Hawking’s first talk, and a book autographed by John Glenn.”


First-floor renovation.

There are 3,000-4,000 books in the literature section and many in the children’s area, always the two most popular offerings. Dan takes special pride that there are many children shopping the Book Fair along with their parents.

We spoke with Dan as members of the volunteer team of 200 put out the newest offerings on tables and in bookcases, asking: “What advice do you have for finding what you want at the sale?”

“You need to have a good eye and some smooth moves. Someone else might spot the box of Christmas records at the same time you do, so if you want that Barbara Streisand LP, you’ll need diversionary tactics. You might try: ‘What’s Kim Kardasian doing shopping in the Philosophy Section?’ Come to think of it, the Christmas records aren’t in the same room as Philosophy, but maybe you just say ‘Kim Kardasian’ very loudly to get the results you want.

“I also recommend that you become an associate of the Newberry by being an Author level donor at $100 or above (the price drops to $50 if you are a junior associate, meaning under 45 years old), and then you can attend Preview Night July 25.”

Having run the Book Fair since 1993, Dan has seen it all and tracks its progress throughout the year on his blog on the Newberry’s website. Donations appear at the Newberry’s loading dock almost daily, and he prices each one as it arrives.

When the Fair is over, Dan won’t be vacationing but moving to his new quarters in the Library’s basement. This year he has run the Fair from the fourth-floor development office and can’t wait to be closer to arrivals sure to appear (although he asks donors to wait awhile) after the fair ends.

Dan sums up his philosophy: “There’s still nothing like a book—a computer hasn’t duplicated the joy of the hunt and the treasures you will find.”

Created by Ann Beha Architects and general contractor Bulley and Andrews, the $12.7 million renovation of 23,000 square feet on the Library’s first floor will be officially open to the public August 14.   A new welcome center, expanded bookshop, and redesigned galleries for thematic shows will welcome visitors, scholars, and lifelong learners.


Welcome Center.


Permanent gallery.

The first thematic exhibition in the new space, Pictures from the Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair, will open September 28. A permanent exhibition, featuring rotating treasures from their vast collection, opens September 13.


For more information on the Book Fair, open noon to 8 July 26 and 27 and 10 to 6 July 28 and 29, and to follow Dan Crawford’s blog, visit


Photo credit: Newberry Library