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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

campus student life

Lilly Library – an archival icon at IU


One of the three buildings lining Showalter Fountain in the Fine Arts Plaza, the Lilly Library serves as Indiana University’s archival rare book and manuscript library. The library opened in 1960 and holds half a million books and about 8.5 million pieces of manuscript, including plays, letters and poems. 

The library hosts themed exhibitions of interesting collections throughout the year. The current exhibition, “Receding Horizons,” features astronomical instruments, artifacts, books and manuscripts celebrating astronomy and science fiction. For students and academics doing extensive research, the Lilly Library is the place to go for rare texts and manuscripts that may be applicable to their study. Anyone can use the library’s resources: no IU affiliation necessary. The library’s staff is ready to help sort through the expansive collection and discuss what texts may help with your research. Students can also browse the IU Catalogue online and process a request for an item.  

The Lilly Library operates as a non-circulating library, meaning no texts can exit the building. However, almost all texts and manuscripts in the collection are available to touch and read in the secure reading room decorated with colorful murals and stacked bookshelves. To book the reading room, visitors must follow the request process on the Lilly Library’s website. Visitors often must do this weeks in advance to provide the staff time to retrieve the needed works. The reading room is also open for public viewing 1 - 4 p.m., every Saturdays. 

Aside from its research purposes, the library also holds weekly tours 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., every Friday. At 1 p.m., Curator of Puzzles Andrew Rhoda showcases the library’s collection of 35,000 mechanical puzzles.  The 2 p.m. tour is more general: exploring the library’s history and giving visitors a chance to learn more about the featured items on display that day. These tours are both walk-in only.  

From countless exhibits online or in its galleries, the Lilly Library offers plenty of opportunities to learn. Walking in on a slow day, one can learn a little something about any of the topics the library chooses to show. The Lilly Library remains a hidden gem for those looking to learn anything piquing their interest.  

This article is part of the Source Visitor’s Guide, an IDS special publication.

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