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Lilly Library renovation next summer will feature cafe, Co-Lab, other amenities

President Vincent Price announced a year ago that Lilly Library, one of Duke’s oldest buildings, was in line for renovation. But how much progress has been made, and what changes should future students expect to see?

The renovations to Lilly Library are set to begin next summer, with the library reopening after 18 to 24 months, according to Kelly Lawton, head of East Campus Libraries, and David Hansen, associate university librarian for research, collections and scholarly communication. The library will include not only upgraded study spaces, but also a café, writing studio and Co-Lab space.

They wrote in one email to The Chronicle that Lilly Library has “lagged behind” the West Campus libraries.

“We want Lilly Library to be a true hub for academic engagement on East Campus. Perkins, Bostock and Rubenstein Library have all been renovated in recent years to add loads of features that have made them a central place for students and faculty to study, research and collaborate,” Lawton and Hansen wrote.

They highlighted specific features of the project that have been designed with input from campus partners. The café is being developed with Duke Dining, the testing space with the Academic Resource Center, the writing studio with the Thompson Writing Program and the Co-Lab—a makerspace—with OIT. 

“An important aspect of this project is that we want it to be a crossroads with other parts of campus life that are closely aligned with what happens in the ‘traditional’ library,” Lawton and Hansen wrote.

Other new features will include the addition of a second entrance in the rear of the building that leads to a covered terrace as well as collaborative study spaces and technology-equipped project rooms. The renovation will also update the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Lawton and Hansen noted that the renovation balances “the historic charm and intimacy” of the library, such as the Carpenter, Few and Thomas reading rooms, with “new modern spaces” like the Co-Lab and project rooms.

“The architects for this project have been incredibly adept at finding that fine line between building in new, modern conveniences and spaces while also respecting the history of the building,” they wrote.

Over the past few months, the library staff have worked closely with Dewing Schmid Kearns architectural firm to finalize design, development and funding plans for the renovation, which is expected to wrap up by April 2020. 

They are currently looking for a smaller space on East Campus to house a temporary library facility for the duration of the renovation.

The renovation project has been in the works for several years, dating back to a feasibility study conducted in 2015. This year, the project team has held meetings with various groups to review plans and gather feedback, including around 40 faculty based on East Campus, the First-Year Library Advisory Board, the Undergraduate Library Advisory Board and the Graduate Student Advisory Board.

Lawton and Hansen emphasized that the team welcomes student and faculty input.

“Although the major aspects of the plans are pretty well fixed at this point, we are always happy to hear from students and faculty about their ideas on how to improve and refine our approach,” they wrote.


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