On Lilly Library’s second floor, students sit at long benches completing calculus assignments, while some type Writing 20 papers at desks facing East Campus’ Main Quad. Some teeter organic chemistry textbooks on their laps in oversized armchairs and others nap on striped couches. It’s a peaceful and quiet space, in a conveniently located, air-conditioned library, with gorgeous Asian decorations.
The mix of furnishings is just part of the reason so many students are attracted to Thomas Reading Room. It’s a peaceful and quiet space, in a conveniently located, air-conditioned library, with gorgeous Asian decorations.
Because of its striking decor, the hall is also commonly referred to as the Chinese Reading Room. James Thomas, the room’s namesake, widely collected Chinese art and literature after completing a 30-year stint in China, where he managed operations for the British-American Tobacco Company. The room features a variety of Asian-inspired pieces donated by Thomas’ friends and family after his passing, including the Ming dynasty Coromandel Screen hanging on the back wall and the Qing dynasty marble lions flanking the doors. Since its opening in 1942, the foyer has been home to Lilly’s quiet study space.
“Not only is it a quiet space, but it’s a beautiful space,” Head of East Campus Libraries Kelley Lawton said. “It’s a very soothing place.... If you came to study, you’d find a space because the room is so large. We really want for it to be accessible for students.”
Students appreciate both the quiet and the room’s beauty, especially during a long study session.
“The Chinese Reading Room is the perfect place to go if you need a quiet study environment. Everyone is very respectful,” freshman Sydney Speizman said. “The oriental decor provides an interesting visual break when your eyes start to hurt from staring at your screen too long. I would definitely recommend it.”