Frequently Asked Questions about the Lilly Library Renovation

All information current as of 8/1/2019

Fall 2019 Access Update

Beginning August 12, 2019 all Reading Room visits must be scheduled one week in advance.

The Lilly Library holds more than 8.5 million manuscripts, nearly half a million books, and 150,000 pieces of sheet music. All items must be carefully moved for the building renovation and this work begins immediately. 

In response to this activity, processes at the library must also change. Beginning August, 2019 all Reading Room visits must be scheduled one week in advance.  Email the Lilly Library to request your appointment.  Digitization requests will continue to be filled through November 6, 2019.  Public galleries will remain open with standard hours. This fall, new requests for class visits and group tours cannot be fulfilled. Please consider visiting on any Friday at 2 p.m. for an open, drop-in tour.

On April 1, the Lilly Endowment, Inc. announced a $10.9M grant to Indiana University to support Lilly Library’s core renovation, and 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. This page offers answers to the questions IU Libraries is most often asked about the upcoming work and will be updated as often as new information is available.

Your questions and additions are welcome. Please send your message to

Visit the Lilly Library Renovation page


August 12 2019 Reading Room now appointment only

November 6, 2019 Last day of 2019 to request digitization services

December 6, 2019 Lilly Library building closes for renovation

January 13, 2020 Limited access and services now open at Wells Library


  • Q. Will the library be closed during renovation?

    A.    Yes. The scope of the renovation project will require closure of the Lilly Library building.  This will impact access to collections, although extraordinary effort will be made to provide as much access as possible and to ensure Lilly Library staff member expertise remains available to researchers, faculty, and students.  

  • Q. When will the library building be closed?

    A.    December 6, 2019 is the last day of service at Lilly Library prior to renovation.  The library building will be closed to all usage through all of 2020 and part of 2021.

  • Q. Is there a temporary location for Lilly Library staff and materials?

    A.    Yes. Due to the incredible academic value of Lilly Library collections and experts, a temporary space has been rapidly identified and work is already underway to make it ready.  In January 2020, the 10th floor of the Herman B Wells Library East Tower will begin providing appointment-based access to some Lilly Library collections.

    Teaching space will also be available in limited capacity, and public services and digitization staff will have office space in this same area.  

  • Q. When is renovation expected to begin?

    A.    In some ways, renovation begins immediately.  All materials will be carefully moved from the library to protect our 8.5 million manuscripts, 450,000 rare books and many other precious artifacts during renovation. In fall of 2019 materials will be transported to secure, IU storage locations.  Some of these will not be accessible for the project duration.

    Changes to service at Lilly Library will occur beginning in August 2019 due to the preparations required to safely store our collections.

    • This will include Reading Room access by advance appointment only, beginning August 12. Appointments can be made by emailing  
    • Digitization services will be suspended between November 6, 2019 and January 13, 2020.
  • Q. Will there be access to materials during the temporary closure?

    A.    There will be changes to current practices during the renovation. The Lilly Library public services staff will make many frequently used materials accessible upon request in a secure reading room at the Herman B Wells Library.  Limited space will require that researchers make an appointment, as well as to request access to materials in advance. Lilly Library staff are familiar with the needs of researchers and faculty and are developing processes to ensure the highest level of access.  However, secure storage arrangements will mean that not all materials will be accessible during the renovation.

    All faculty are invited to alert the library of any materials that may be desired for access during the renovation by sending an email to  All possible accommodation will be made. 

  • Q. Where will the collections be during renovation?

    A.    IU Libraries and the University Architects Office continue to study the needs for the Lilly Library collections and potential locations. Indiana University is fortunate to have a state-of-the-art Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF) where collections from all over the campus are stored in a high security and climate-controlled environment.  Ideally a large percentage of the Lilly Library collections will be stored in the ALF. Indeed, some materials from the Lilly Library collections are already stored here to take advantage of optimal preservation conditions.

    This FAQ will be updated as more information becomes available. 

  • Q. How long is renovation expected to take?

    A.    It is common for a project of this scale to take 12-16 months. 

  • Q. Will anyone lose their job during the renovation?

    A.    All staff will be needed during the renovation. There is significant work required to provide access to, instruct with, support research with, conserve, describe, organize, and digitize the massive collections of the Lilly Library. The staff of the Lilly Library will continue their work as well as participate in the moving of collections and planning for the renovation.  

  • Q. Can faculty still teach with Lilly Library materials during renovation?

    A.    The Lilly Library is committed to the teaching mission of IU. Some teaching with Lilly Library materials will continue through the renovation using alternate procedures still being defined.

    A location at Herman B Wells Library has been identified for classroom teaching.  There will be limitations, however, and those faculty members in the Libraries’ Primary Source Immersion Program will receive some prioritization, based on the prior planning already in place for these courses.  

    This FAQ will be updated as soon as more information is available.

  • Q. Does the Lilly Library renovation still need funding? How would my donation be used?

    A.    The Lilly Library is so much more than a building. The very generous $10.9M gift from Lilly Endowment, Inc. makes the renovation of the building’s infrastructure possible.  However, there are many special projects and opportunities that will require additional support.  

    If you are interested in being part of this impactful, once-in-a-generation renovation, contact Pete Rhoda, IU Libraries Executive Director of Development at or 812-855-7494.

  • Q. When was this project officially approved by the University?

    A.  On June 14, 2019, Indiana University Board of Trustees approved a $12.4 million renovation project. Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities Thomas A. Morrison presented the request, along with support and remarks by Carolyn Walters, Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries.   

    She said, "In 1960, builders simply had no way to imagine how far we would take J.K. Lilly’s gift.  We often say the Lilly Library is a promise.  Once materials are in our possession, we are committed to their life-long conservation.  We are investing in the life of these rare and historical artifacts, which is far greater than our own. Today, we can carry the promise of the Lilly Library forward to the next generation and into Indiana University’s third century."

    Read more in a report covering the Board of Trustees meeting.


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