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Lilly Library could see expansion, but funding still in question

Perkins and Bostock libraries have received multi-million dollar facelifts in recent years, but East Campus’s Lilly Library has mostly been ignored. That may change soon. 

A feasibility study for the expansion and renovation of Lilly Library was completed in Fall 2015, with further studies conducted in Spring and Summer 2016, explained Robert Byrd, associate university librarian for collections and user services. The potential project—which is currently searching for funding—would expand the library toward the back and add more flexible study spaces, as well as group project rooms. 

“We would very much like to see the project pursued,” Byrd said. “We think it’s necessary not just for quality of library services but for enhancing the first-year experience.”

The latest version of the proposal would increase Lilly’s square footage by about 43 percent, mostly by creating an addition on the back of the library with an entrance that is more accessible to students living in the backyard dorms, Bryd noted. This would better connect Lilly with those buildings and make the library more of a crossroads, similar to Bostock or Perkins on West Campus. 

Kelley Lawton, head of East Campus libraries and subject librarian for United States history, said that the main goal of the project is to make Lilly more of a collision space where students and faculty can interact. In a Fall 2016 focus group conducted by the library, both graduate and undergraduate students expressed interest in a café spot where the campus community could easily interact, similar to Saladelia Café at Perkins Library.

Another focus is creating more group study rooms and project rooms as well as individual study areas, Byrd explained. 

“We really think that Lilly needs some of the variety and versatility of study areas that we see here on West,” he said. 

One version of the proposal included putting a new second floor in the two high-ceiling reading rooms on either side of the library, which would double the amount of user space. Since these rooms are already two-and-a-half stories tall, dividing them in half would still leave high ceilings. 

Byrd noted that mechanical and electrical updates are needed since they have not been done since the library was built in 1927. The proposal would also open up the lobby by moving the book stacks from their current location behind the circulation desk to a well-organized lower floor.

In addition, Lawton noted that those planning the expansion are considering how to add more meeting rooms to Lilly and create a bigger presence for the writing studio. 

“We would like to have more event space in Lilly so departments could have lectures and workshops,” she said. 

Further conversations with administrators about how to fundraise and the priority of the project still need to occur, Byrd explained. In April 2017, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask instructed facilities management leadership to place the project on the University’s capital budget, but not starting before the 2018-19 academic year. 

Byrd said that he recently met with leaders in several areas of student life—including Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions, Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, and Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education—to talk about the project in terms of their vision for East Campus. 

“The sense of all of us was that East Campus needs a stronger faculty presence, a stronger sense of community,” Byrd said. 

He noted that the group also discussed how first-years need more bonding experiences so students can feel more connected with one another. Renovations in Lilly could help facilitate that interaction. 

More conversations about securing funding will be necessary, he explained. Money for the renovations—currently estimated at $45-48 million total—could come from the administration or from individual donors who are passionate about the library. 

Lawton explained that if the project is approved, Lilly will have to shut down for a period of time. The staff is currently exploring what they would need to do to operate a satellite location, preferably on East Campus so first-years would still have a study hub. 

“If it gets far enough along, we’ll start working with facilities management [on the satellite location],” Lawton said.


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