IU receives $10.9 million grant from Lilly Endowment

By Aziza Jackson

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Lilly Endowment Inc. recently awarded the Indiana University Foundation a $10.9 million grant to support renovation of the university’s internationally renowned Lilly Library, IU President Michael A. McRobbie has announced.

Consistently regarded as one of the nation’s top libraries for books and manuscripts of the greatest importance, the Lilly Library was established in 1960 to house the extensive private library of the late Josiah K. Lilly Jr., one of Lilly Endowment’s founders. The collection he donated includes more than 20,000 rare books and 17,000 manuscripts.

The Lilly Library now contains more than 450,000 rare books, 8.5 million manuscripts and 150,000 sheets of music. Part of the IU Libraries, the venerable limestone building is in the heart of IU Bloomington’s Fine Arts Plaza, the campus’s center for the arts and humanities.

Students often come to the Lilly Library as part of their coursework to review some of the one-of-a-kind materials preserved in the facility.

“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.,” said McRobbie. “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.

“With this extraordinary support from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Lilly Library will greatly improve its ability to provide wide access to the library’s rare books, manuscripts and objects to broader audiences — from children to lifelong learners and scholars — enhancing all of our communities.”

The Lilly Endowment grant will support major upgrades to the 52,516-square-foot facility’s mechanical systems and lighting, technological equipment, fire protection and security systems, ADA access and building navigation, and space configuration. These improvements will enable maximum preservation and an enhanced and more modern presentation of the library’s literary and cultural treasures, which require special handling and can only be accessed in secure on-site areas. They will also allow students, scholars, researchers, educators and other visitors to more effectively access and experience the library’s one-of-a-kind materials, which are frequently and increasingly incorporated by IU faculty into their teaching, research and creative activities.

“Lilly Endowment is most pleased to support this comprehensive renovation,” said N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment’s chairman, president and CEO. “The Lilly Library meant a great deal to J.K Lilly Jr., who was one of our three founders. These improvements will significantly further his interest in having his magnificent collection, which he so passionately assembled, appreciated and used by future generations.”

According to Lilly Library director Joel Silver, courses taught on site have increased by more than 225 percent since 1992. In 1960, the Lilly Library’s total collection numbered approximately 100,000 rare books and 1 million manuscripts. Today, the book collection has increased 350 percent, and the manuscript collection has grown 750 percent.

The Lilly Library will continue to meet researcher requests for access to its collections and other services in the Herman B Wells Library during construction, which is expected to begin late this year. The library facility is expected to be closed for about 18 months.