Chicago's hidden treasure holds scholarly records

Sunday, December 16, 2001

CHICAGO -- Looking for a volume of Britain's House of Lords' daily records from 1509? How about a copy of India's 1961 census?

Or maybe Albert Einstein's doctoral dissertation?

They're all more or less at your fingertips on Chicago's South Side, squirreled away in a 125,000-square-foot, four-story building known as the Center for Research Libraries. The center houses one of the most remarkable collections of what it calls "scholarly resources" in the world.

"We're the most interesting place you've never heard of," says Bernard Reilly, the facility's new president.

The center is the creation of a not-for-profit consortium of more than 200 colleges, universities and libraries. In addition to its own holdings, which it makes available to scholars, students and the general public, the center helps establish and preserve collections at other institutions around the world. There are 40 full-time employees.

But many of those holdings are fairly common items; what the center has is the rare stuff.

"We hold things so other people don't have to" said Jim Green, chief financial officer.

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