As of January 2021, the Lilly Library remains closed for renovation. Work is well underway to prepare the Lilly Library for its next decades of service. Main galleries and classrooms are expected to re-open in summer or early fall 2021, with Reading Room availability to follow by the end of the year.
Renovating to reimagine one of the world's great libraries.
The Lilly Library celebrated its 60th anniversary in October 2020 while undergoing a first time, transformative renovation to reimagine its footprint for today’s modern scholars.
For six decades the Lilly Library has been a promise – once an item is in its care, the Library and its staff make certain it remains safely conserved and ready for examination by scholars for as many decades and, indeed, centuries, as possible.
The Lilly Library closed its doors in December 2019
Consider the small, 21-member Lilly Library staff, plus an additional two dozen IU Libraries colleagues, undertaking the task to supervise the transportation of 8.5 million manuscripts and 482,000 rare books into secure, yet temporary locations. As an extra challenge, the staff decided to fiercely honor the Lilly Library's commitment to accessibility and dedicated themselves to finding places and processes which would ensure a majority of the collection remained available to researchers and students during the building closure.
While still providing services to hundreds of Reading Room users, university classes, and national researchers, Lilly Library staff spent much of the fall months of 2019 planning a once-in-a-lifetime move of the entire contents of the Lilly Library building. As a result of this extraordinary work, 80 percent of the collection remains accessible to librarians during the renovation. It is nothing short of astonishing that all of this occurred in a 9-month window while staff maintained a full suite of services and supported the publishing of multiple, collection-focused books.
Renovation continues on schedule
In July 2020, major upgrades began to the 52,516 square-foot facility’s mechanical systems, including HVAC, fire protection, and security systems engineered to both protect and prolong the life of the Library’s irreplaceable materials. At the same time, the transformative interior work was underway. A reimagining of space usage, including installation of a new elevator for access to all public floors, will take full advantage of efficiencies gained from replacing outdated systems. Additionally, the reshaping of the floorplan allows for much-needed new classroom and lecture space with state-of-the-art learning technologies, increasing total teaching capacity in the building by over 300 percent.
The Lilly Library main galleries and classrooms are expected to re-open in summer or early fall 2021, with Reading Room availability to follow by the end of the year.
By the Numbers: Careful curators secure library materials during renovation.
When the Lilly Library opened on October 3, 1960, it held 100,000 books and nearly 1 million manuscripts. Since then, the collection has grown exponentially. In addition to the rare books and manuscripts that needed to be carefully packed and then relocated by professional moving teams, Lilly Library staff also supervised transportation of 38 busts/statuettes, paintings, thousands of puzzles, the world's largest collection of miniature books, four cabinets of shipyard building plans, four Oscars, a Gutenberg Bible and its case, and one desk from Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield, Illinois law office.
482,000 Rare Books
12 cabinets Puzzles and Miniature books
150,000 Pieces of Sheet Music
Thousands of hours each year are spent in the Lilly Library Reading Room by scholars, students, and intellectually curious visitors exploring the millions of literary artifacts held in what is one of the world's great rare books libraries.
A Reading Room worthy of the Lilly Library collections
The renovation will offer its visitors a new visual centerpiece for this world-class rare books library. In January 2020, Indiana University celebrated a new Lilly Endowment Inc. gift to fund the commission of an inspirational and iconic cycle of murals for the Reading Room. Indiana University has long been guardian and conservator of the venerable Thomas Hart Benton Indiana Murals situated in three buildings on the Bloomington campus. The new cycle of murals will be in close proximity to these treasures. The vision for the murals will be a reflection of the Library's rich resources in world literature, history, the sciences, and the arts, and honor the legacy of J. K. Lilly, Jr. whose remarkable private library of books and manuscripts formed the nucleus of the Lilly Library collections.
The cycle of murals in the Lilly Library Reading Room will invoke a sense of wonder as visitors encounter an inspiring depiction of the breadth and diversity of the Lilly Library's extensive collections, as well as an acknowledgment of the collectors whose passionate pursuits helped to form the connected libraries that scholars investigate today.
- On January 23, 2020, the Lilly Library Reading Room Mural Project Committee issued a Request for Expressions of Interest for the design, creation, and installation of a cycle of murals in the Lilly Library Reading Room.
- Indiana University was honored to receive multiple expressions of interest submitted by highly qualified artists from Indiana and around the globe. After thoughtful consideration of many factors, including context, the reading room environment, and the Lilly Library collections, seven artists were selected as finalists.
- Ralph Gilbert, an Atlanta, Georgia artist and muralist, was selected by the review committee, and in May 2020 Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie confirmed the commissioning.