Cooperative Collecting in Chicago
As early as 1892, the Newberry recognized that some areas of knowledge would eventually be “supplied in other libraries of the city or vicinity.” In 1896, the two Chicago public reference libraries (Newberry and John Crerar) and the Chicago Public Library formally embraced cooperative collecting. Natural sciences and “useful arts” became the province of the Crerar, and the Newberry immediately transferred its collections in these areas—including the Audubon Birds of America acquired in 1891 from Henry Probasco.
With the exception of the Medical Department, the Newberry after 1896 was for the most part a library of the humanities and social sciences, but as a general reference library it continued to collect broadly. Only gradually would it narrow its scope to Europe and the Americas. From 1908 to 1910, the Newberry sent the Field Museum’s Berthold Laufer to Asia to acquire “a good working library for American students of the East.” Just four years later Librarian William N. C. Carlton recognized that the Newberry lacked the resources to develop comprehensive East Asian holdings, and proposed transferring the Newberry’s collection to the Library of Congress. It would not be until 1943 that the collection would actually be sold—to the University of Chicago.