Today rare books and special collections are so much more than treasures consulted by small groups of privileged scholars. They are the way dynamic librarians and faculty bring the past to life for thousands of IU students from nearly every discipline on campus.
Very few public universities offer this caliber of collections to every single student. The Lilly Library is one of the ways Indiana University makes the arts and humanities a vital and necessary element of our campus life.
Consistently regarded as one of the nation's top libraries for books and manuscripts of the utmost importance, the Lilly Library enriches both Indiana University and the world’s community of scholars.
The Lilly Library can be your promise to the next generation
Between 1954 and 1957, Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. donated his collection of rare books and manuscripts, widely considered to be one of the finest private libraries in the world, to Indiana University. Named the "Lilly Library" in honor of the Lilly family, a freestanding library was soon constructed to protect the materials and proclaim IU’s esteemed position as caretaker and curator of the state’s most valuable literary legacy.
Opening its doors in 1960, the limestone structure was placed at the heart of a growing campus. Along with the School of Fine Arts, the University's Art Museum, and the Indiana University Auditorium, the Lilly Library helped to establish the University's Fine Arts Plaza as Indiana’s center for the arts and humanities, available to all.
Growth in collection size, student enrollment, and demands of scholars and students from around the U.S. and the world has resulted in a level of activity that can no longer be sustained. The wonderful lead commitment by Lilly Endowment Inc. toward the Library's 60th-anniversary campaign will support necessary and major facility upgrades.
In addition to this incredible core restoration, the renovation presents a number of ideal opportunities to enhance teaching, research, and exhibition. The Lilly Library has been challenged in many ways by its own success. Since 1992, the number of courses taught on-site at the Lilly Library has grown by 225 percent (from 87 to 309), reaching 400 percent more students (from 1,061 to 5,379).
"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.
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."
- IU President Michael A. McRobbie
"The Lilly Library is an internationally-renowned treasure on our campus. This renovation supports access to its priceless and unique collections for scholars and students at Indiana University and around the world. Accessibility for class use, in particular, will be greatly improved, allowing even more students to learn how to work with historically and culturally significant archives."
- Lauren Robel, IU Bloomington Provost
Physical spaces are particularly important for rare books and special collections libraries that hold non-circulating collections. Our one-of-a-kind materials can only be accessed here—in our Reading Room, classrooms, and galleries—or through digital surrogates. Your visible gift of a named space highlights the value of both the venerable materials at Lilly Library and the people who interact with them.
Potential spaces with naming opportunities include museum-level galleries for exhibitions, technology-enabled instructional and lecture spaces, and inspirational, main floor scholar and student Reading Room enhancements.
Our scholar librarians teach class sessions, host lectures, curate gallery exhibitions, lead weekly tours, and work with Reading Room visitors as part of the Lilly Library’s cultural mission. By supporting our staff, you join us in inviting all to open the door to discovery—regardless of address or academic affiliation. Your gift to endow conservation and librarian positions becomes part of our promise and preserves an unwavering consistency in mission.
Recognize academic excellence and primary source impact by securing a named librarian position focused on collecting in areas of relevance to current and future scholars, or name our director position to ensure the Lilly Library continues to draw the most respected rare books scholars as caretakers of its generational collections.
Learn more about positions currently available for a named endowment.
With your help, we will continue to build and preserve unique collections that are relevant now and for generations of learners. Mr. Lilly's initial gift of his magnificent personal library created a magnetic force for establishing a unique collection of collections. For decades, in-kind gifts, cash gifts, and expedient purchases by knowledgeable Lilly Directors have contributed to the breadth and depth of his foundational work. In order to sustain this momentum as we celebrate 60 years of impact, flexible resources are required.
Your legacy gift to Lilly Library acquisitions can be used to:
- Enable our director to act swiftly to acquire important works when they appear on the market through unrestricted support to our collections fund
- Build meaningful collections as we meet faculty and student requests for specific additions to our libraries, ensuring the Lilly Library stays connected to our rapidly changing world
- Protect the access and authenticity of the world’s history by supporting the persistent preservation of fragile materials held at Lilly Library
Learn more about specific opportunities for support of the ongoing conservation and acquisition efforts of the Lilly Library.
Through our renovation project, many audiences outside of scholarly circles will learn of our history, astonishing collections, and openness to all. This is a new opportunity to connect with not only our longtime friends and supporters, but also new communities who will interact with our fascinating materials for the very first time. Join us as we carry the promise of Lilly Library forward into Indiana University’s third century. Support will be needed for:
- Reopening receptions
- Lectures and panel discussions
- Collaborative events to celebrate main gallery exhibitions
- Mini-educational experiences connected to our core collections
- Recognition and celebration of our Reading Room muralist
Help us celebrate the remarkable and connected collections of Lilly Library as you learn more about our reopening.
The Lilly Library building is closed for renovation, however, we invite you to virtually walk through our public spaces as they were in Fall 2019. Click below to open a new window, and then click the arrow to start your tour. Use your mouse to go from room to room. Need help? Just ask.
Ways to Give Now
Major and Planned Gifts
If you have an interest in exploring major and/or planned gift opportunities for the Lilly Library 60th Anniversary Campaign, please contact Executive Director of Development Pete Rhoda.
If you would like to make an annual gift to the Lilly Library Fund, please visit the link below.