The Newberry Library has had a bookshop in its lobby for decades. From 1995 to 2013, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park managed the A.C. McClurg Bookstore in the lobby of The Newberry Library.
On November 1, 2013, The Newberry Library assumed direct responsibility for the lobby bookshop and later changed its name to the Newberry Bookstore. This left the Seminary Co-op with two bookshops in Hyde Park.
The Newberry Library announced, “The Newberry will continue the 18-year Seminary Co-op tradition of serving the needs of book lovers at our A.C. McClurg Bookstore—especially those of our readers, fellows, students, seminar participants, other regular library visitors, and neighbors.”
The store was closed November 1-2, 2013, to enable the Newberry team to inventory the stock. It re-opened on Tuesday, November 5, 2013.
The Newberry Library stated the store “will continue to offer a wide array of new books that relate to the Newberry’s collection, as well as stationery products. The bookstore will also sell used and some rare books, and in the months ahead we will add more Newberry-related gifts. Associates at the Author level ($100) and above will continue to receive a 10-percent discount.”
We welcome Jennifer Fastwolf as the Bookstore’s new manager. Jennifer was a staff member of the Newberry at an earlier stage of her career, first in the reading rooms and then in the events office. More recently she has been managing the sales operations of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s bookstore. Jennifer will not only manage the Newberry Bookstore’s operations but also work with other staff here on developing a fuller program of author talks and related events.
The Newberry Library is bucking the trend as it is becoming increasingly rare for institutions that have bookshops or gift shops in their lobbies to own and directly manage them. Across the U.S., such institutions are outsourcing management of gift shops and bookstores to outside companies.
In its e-newsletter, The Newberry Library stated on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, “A recent New York Times article reported good news for independent bookstores in the U.S. Since 2009, the number of independent bookstores has increased by 27%. This seems to suggest a continued demand not just for physical books but for carefully chosen selections made by staff attuned to their communities. The Newberry’s own bookstore is proudly independent, and carries a range of unique and locally made items. Its shelves are constantly evolving to reflect a current Newberry exhibition, an upcoming ‘Meet the Author’ talk, or a fascinating collection in the library.”
Last week, I interviewed Newberry Bookstore Manager Jennifer Fastwolf. I asked, “When did The Newberry Library decide to rename the A.C. McClurg Bookstore the Newberry Bookstore?” Ms. Fastwolf related they changed the bookstore’s name when they re-opened.
I asked, “Did the lobby bookstore exist before the Seminary Co-op began operating it in 1995?” Yes, it was a small store, Ms. Fastwolf explained, along the lines of a stall. It had existed in some form for decades. She remembers it being there in the 1980s when she was a page.
Considering that most library pages are high school or college students, I asked if it was her first job. Yes, she was a Newberry page whilst in high school.
Her father, a full-blooded Sioux Lakota, was doing research at The D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, and asked if she could work there as a page. Ms. Fastwolf said, “It’s a [Newberry] tradition for workers to go away and come back.”
How long did you work at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Bookstore? “Seven years. Loved it great people, had I not been offered this, I would have never left.”
Ms. Fastwolf earned her B.F.A. in sculpture and costume history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (S.A.I.C.). The women in her family have studied at the S.A.I.C. for three generations. Her mother worked at the Chicago Culture Center for twenty-seven years.
What is it like to run a bookstore inside a research library? “Fantastic, because the customers are already intelligent, you can bring them along. It’s basically a carefully curated boutique for people who read. They appreciate the de-accessions [books and ephemera from the collections that have been de-accessioned because they are duplicates]. For the lay people who wander in off the street, we have cool gifts.”
Ms. Fastwolf added, “Anyone can have wonderful fun, sarcastic card.”
Do you help run The Newberry Book Fair, The Newberry Library’s annual sale of donated second-hand books? “No, that’s actually one guy and a lot of docents. It takes up the entire first floor [of The Newberry]. It is spectacular.” She added, “The gentleman who runs it [Dan Crawford] has a hilarious blog on The Newberry web site. Look up Uncle Blogsy.”
 General Alexander C. McClurg was a book and magazine publisher, wholesale distributor of books and stationary, and retailer. The retail operation was the oldest bookshop in the city, founded in 1844. He joined the firm in 1859, left to fight in the Civil War, and returned to become a partner with former employer S.C. Griggs. His business, A.C. McClurg & Company, burnt down in 1899, but he re-organized it, selling stock to employees, before he died in 1901. A.C. McClurg & Company published eleven Tarzan books, starting with Tarzan of the Apes in 1914. To focus on being a book wholesaler, A. C. McClurg sold its bookstore located at 218 South Wabash Street to Brentano’s. Finally, the company was liquidated in 1962. The Newberry Library owns the A.C. McClurg & Co. Records, 1873-1962.
 In 2011, the Seminary Co-operative Bookstore, Inc. celebrated the 50th anniversary of its incorporation. In October of 2012, its flagship store moved one block east to a larger, above-ground location at 5751 South Woodlawn Avenue on The University of Chicago campus. This is the Woodlawn Avenue Store. 57th Street Books, at 57th Street and Kimbark, celebrated the 30th anniversary of its opening on Tuesday, October 22, 2013.
Slideshow Caption: The bookshop in the lobby of The Newberry L