Renovation News

On June 14, 2019, IU's Board of Trustees approved a $12.4 million  project to renovate the iconic Lilly Library in the same year it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie announced on April 1, 2019, that Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded the Indiana University Foundation a $10.9 million grant to support renovation of the university’s internationally renowned IU Lilly Library. 

Consistently regarded as one of the nation's top libraries for books and manuscripts of the greatest importance, the Lilly Library was established in 1960 to house the extensive private library of the late Josiah K. Lilly Jr., one of the Lilly Endowment’s founders. The collection he donated to IU comprised more than 20,000 rare books and 17,000 manuscripts. It was the genesis of the Lilly Library, which now contains more than 450,000 rare books, 8.5 million manuscripts and 150,000 sheets of music. Part of the IU Libraries, the venerable limestone building is located in the heart of IU Bloomington’s Fine Arts Plaza, the campus’ center for the arts and humanities.   

“Indiana University’s Lilly Library is a state, national and international treasure, and a testament to the vision and generosity of J.K. Lilly Jr.,” McRobbie said. “It has always been universally acclaimed for its unique, world-class collections. Its vibrant and stunning materials continue to astonish all those who use them.

“With this extraordinary support from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Lilly Library will greatly improve its ability to provide wide access to the library's rare books, manuscripts and objects to broader audiences ranging from children to lifelong learners to scholars, enhancing all of our communities. 

“Lilly Endowment is most pleased to support this comprehensive renovation," said N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment’s chairman, president, and CEO. “The Lilly Library meant a great deal to J.K Lilly Jr., who was one of our three founders. These improvements will significantly further his interest in having his magnificent collection, which he so passionately assembled, appreciated, and used by future generations.” 

As IU rapidly approaches its bicentennial celebration, the Lilly Library has been challenged, in many ways, by its own success. Growth in collection size and student enrollment, along with continuously increasing demands of scholars and students who travel from around the U.S. and the world to use the library’s matchless collections, have resulted in a level of activity that the building, which has not had any significant interior renovation since its completion nearly 60 years ago, can no longer sustain. 

Lauren Robel, IU Bloomington provost and executive vice president, said, “The Lilly Library is one of our campus treasures. The renovation will support more scholarly interactions with relevant rare books, personal letters and photographs, among many other historically important objects. Our campus is deeply grateful for the endowment’s continued generous philanthropic support, which spans many decades and which supports our ongoing campus transformation.”

The Lilly Endowment grant will support major upgrades to the 52,516-square-foot facility’s mechanical systems and lighting, technological equipment, fire protection and security systems, ADA access and building navigation upgrades, and space configuration. These improvements will enable maximum preservation and an enhanced and more modern presentation of the library’s literary and cultural treasures, which require special handling and can only be accessed in secure on-site areas. They will also allow students, scholars, researchers, educators and other visitors to more effectively access and experience the library’s one-of-a-kind materials, which are frequently and increasingly incorporated by IU faculty into their teaching, research and creative activities. 

According to Lilly Library Director Joel Silver, since 1992, courses taught on site at the Lilly Library have increased by more than 225 percent. In 1960, the Lilly Library’s total collection numbered approximately 100,000 rare books and 1,000,000 manuscripts. Today, the collection size represents a 350 percent increase in books and 750 percent growth in manuscripts. 

Carolyn Walters is the Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries. She said, “Printed materials are among the most commonly surviving artifacts of history and offer transformational, hands-on learning. The Lilly Library is so much more than a building, and yet, our value is inherently tied to the people and spaces that encourage interaction with our materials. We are grateful to the Lilly Endowment. This grant will ensure we have the right environment to present and preserve these treasures long into the future." 

This grant counts toward the $3 billion For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, which is taking place on all IU-administered campuses, including IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude in June 2020 to coincide with IU’s bicentennial celebration.

Work in progress

A photo of a room with wood work and an elegant ceiling under construction

As of July 2020, spaces are now ready for major upgrades 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, work begins for a transformative interior renovation and reimagining of space usage, including installation of a new elevator for access to all public floors.  Efficiencies gained from replacing outdated systems allows for much needed new classroom and lecture space with state-of-the art learning technologies, increasing total teaching capacity to approximately 275 seats.  


Questions and Answers

Given the high level of research interest in its collections, the Lilly Library will continue to meet researcher requests for access to its collections and other services in the Herman B Wells Library during construction, which is expected to begin late this year. The library facility is planned to be closed for about 18 months. 

IU Libraries offers an FAQ list on this site. 
Your questions and additions are welcome. Please send your message to


The Lilly Library hosts researchers from around the county and around the world.




News Articles

Links below deliver directly to outside news postings from the identified media source.