The Duke Endowment Awards Additional $10 Million to Lilly Library Renovation Project

Duke University has received a second $10 million award from The Duke Endowment for the renovation of its historic Lilly Library on East Campus. In 2020, The Duke Endowment gave an initial $10 million to support the renovation project.

The university will preserve the library’s historic Georgian style while updating the building’s interior and exterior and increasing its footprint by 78%—from 31,500 square feet to 56,300—resulting in more seating, collaborative study spaces, and technology-equipped project rooms.

Construction is expected to begin in 2024 with an anticipated completion date of 2027, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the library’s opening.

“We are grateful to The Duke Endowment for this transformational gift and their continued support for Lilly Library,” said Duke University President Vincent E. Price. “This is an exciting moment in Lilly’s nearly 100-year history, as we look forward to the many ways the renovation will enhance the East Campus experience and support our first-year students’ success.”

The renovation project will also update heating and cooling systems, lighting, technology, and furnishings to meet contemporary standards for safety and accessibility. The library’s well-loved reading rooms will retain their historic charm while their infrastructure is enhanced. New features will include an assembly space for events, a second entrance on the southwest side of the building that will connect with the residential “backyard” of East Campus, and a café space where students and faculty can meet over coffee.

“While Lilly Library is beloved and popular with many of our users, it simply wasn’t designed to meet the needs of today’s students and researchers,” said Joseph Salem, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “We’re so pleased that The Duke Endowment is enabling us to bring to East Campus the kind of modern library spaces, services, and programs that have been so successful in Perkins, Bostock, and Rubenstein libraries on West Campus.”

Lilly Library opened in 1927 on East Campus as Duke University’s first library while West Campus was being constructed. It served as the Woman’s College Library for more than 40 years, but when the Woman’s College merged with Trinity College of Arts & Sciences in 1972, the library was renamed the East Campus Library.

In 1990, philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the last great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, made a gift to renovate the library—leading to the naming of the library in her honor.

“Lilly Library is a rich part of Duke’s history and has played a critical role in the evolution of Duke Libraries,” said Charles C. Lucas III, Chair of The Duke Endowment Board of Trustees. “Lilly is an important part of the student experience, especially on East Campus, and is vital to teaching, research and learning at Duke. The Duke Endowment is proud to continue supporting Duke University’s goals of restoring and enhancing Lilly Library for generations to come.”

The Duke Endowment’s continued support of the university energizes the campus, said David Kennedy, vice president of alumni engagement and development.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for what is to come for everyone in the Duke community who will experience Lilly Library. The Duke Endowment has been an integral part of making that happen,” Kennedy said.

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James. B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds, and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $4.3 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

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