Frequently Asked Questions

We will be updating these FAQs and adding to them as the project gets under way. Check back frequently for the most up-to-date information.

1. Why is Lilly Library being renovated and expanded?

Simply put, Lilly Library is outdated in terms of facilities, user space, and technology. Built in 1927, it was designed to serve a population of 650 students. Today, approximately 1,700 first-year students live and study on East Campus. Lilly is their academic home and plays a key role in orienting them to college-level study, collaboration, and discovery.

While Lilly Library and its staff are popular with library users, it lacks most of the elements of a modern research library. Its building systems are reaching the end of their serviceable life, and Lilly’s cramped, poorly lit study spaces do not serve students and researchers well. The library has suffered from water leaks and high humidity levels for years, threatening the materials on the shelves. Additionally, many of the library services and spaces today’s students need to succeed are available in Perkins, Bostock, and Rubenstein libraries on West Campus, but not on East. This renovation will change that.

2. What will be different about Lilly after the renovation?

Our goal is to bring Lilly into the twenty-first century, maintaining the iconic aspects of the building while introducing improvements and innovations found in a modern research library.

The planned expansion will dramatically increase the building’s footprint. When complete, Lilly will be nearly 75 percent larger than it is now (56,300 gross square feet, up from the current 31,500). It will have significantly more user seating (635 seats, compared to the current 444) and offer more group study spaces and technology-equipped project rooms.

In addition to accommodating more library users, the project will address urgent facility needs, including structural reinforcement, waterproofing, improved accessibility, up-to-date heating and air conditioning systems, and stabilized environmental controls.

Finally, the renovation will transform Lilly Library into a true academic crossroads by incorporating campus services, such as a staffed writing studio similar to the one in Perkins, a testing center for students with special educational needs, a café, exhibit space, and a 75-seat assembly room for academic events, meetings, and programs. Staff workspaces will also be updated to allow for more efficient processes for the many “behind the scenes” tasks of a research library.

Updates will also extend to the elegant Thomas, Few, and Carpenter reading rooms. The charm and character of these beloved spaces will be preserved, but their finishes, furnishings, lighting, and technology infrastructure will be enhanced. In sum, the improved Lilly will significantly enhance the Duke first-year experience, strengthening services to faculty and graduate students, and enlivening East Campus.

3. How long will the renovation take?

Once construction gets under way, we expect the library will reopen after 18 – 24 months.

4. Where will everything—all the books, films, staff, and furniture—go?

Most of Lilly’s books, films, journals, and other collection materials will be moved to offsite storage or to shelves in Perkins and Bostock Libraries on West Campus.

During the renovation, Lilly’s staff will move to a temporary location in Bishop’s House (behind Bassett Residence Hall), which will serve as a temporary base of library services on East Campus.

As for Lilly’s distinctive furnishings and art, they will be held in storage until the building reopens. Some of them will return to the new and improved Lilly after renovation, while others will be found new homes.

5. While Lilly Library is closed, what library services and locations will remain on East Campus?

After the building closes, Lilly Library staff will move to Bishop’s House (formerly home to Duke Continuing Studies). Note that this location will serve mainly as an access and delivery point for requests, with some technology such as ePrint and scanning, as well as course reserves. The Duke Music Library on East Campus remains available for broader library services.

6. How can I get books or films that I used to get at Lilly?

Library staff are working hard to ensure that as much of Lilly’s collection as possible remains accessible throughout the renovation. However, some materials will be unavailable for a period of time while they are being moved and stored in their temporary locations. Just look things up in the online catalog as always, and the current location will display. You may have the option to request materials to be picked up at various library service points.

Also, don’t forget Interlibrary Loan! Duke users can draw from a combined library collection of 90 million books and other materials from our peer institutions quickly and easily.

7. What will the impact of the Lilly Project be on other East Campus facilities?

Are you asking about the tennis courts? Everyone is asking about the tennis courts! Six of the tennis courts behind Lilly Library will be removed during phases of construction. More details to come.

Other services in Lilly will relocate to other buildings on East Campus. The Innovation Co-Lab 3D printers will be relocated temporarily to Wilson Dormitory, and the Value Transfer Station will be located in the East Campus Union.

8. How much will the Lilly Project cost?

The total cost of the renovation and expansion is estimated to be $64 million, which is largely being funded through philanthropy.

9. Who are the architects?

To accomplish our vision, we’re working with the architectural firm Dewing Schmid Kearns. Several members of the design team have also worked on previous library projects at Duke, including the construction of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion, the renovation of Perkins Library, and the Rubenstein Library renovation.

10. You’ve been talking about renovating Lilly for years. Wasn’t it supposed to be done by now? What has taken so long?

The Lilly renovation and expansion was originally scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020. Hundreds of hours of planning, campus consultations, and design work had informed the vision and timeline for the project up to that point. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt. By the time the project pause was lifted in May 2021, the long delay in starting construction, combined with supply chain issues that still exist, caused a steep increase in the estimated total project cost. In light of that, we had to consider ways to realize some efficiencies and adjust the plans. New plans were drawn to keep us within budget while retaining important programmatic features and adequate seating.

11. How can I support the Lilly Project?

To make a financial gift in support the renovation of Lilly Library, contact Blue Dean, Associate University Librarian for Development.

12. How can I learn more?

Check this website for regular news and updates! You can also follow Lilly Library on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.