L&B room in Sterling to undergo renovation to improve ventilation
Renovations in Sterling Memorial Library’s Linonia and Brothers Reading Room will begin in 2022 to improve the ventilation system and return original luster to the beloved study spot.
Vaibhav Sharma, Photo Editor
The Linonia and Brothers Reading Room, located in Sterling Memorial Library, is set to begin renovations next year to solve ventilation problems in the popular study space.
The Linonia and Brothers Reading Room opened in the 1930s and sits on the ground floor of Sterling Memorial Library. But in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reading room was closed due to lack of proper ventilation and air flow. The space remains off-limits to students and faculty due to its ventilation issues, and has been temporarily removed from the Library’s list of study spaces.
“One of the most important yet invisible aspects of the renovation will be replacing the room’s mechanical systems — which date back to when Sterling opened in 1931 — with modern energy efficient heating and cooling systems,” Barbara Rockenbach, Stephen F. Gates ’68 University librarian wrote in an email to the News.
The L&B room is not currently able to maximize safety for students and faculty in the face of the University’s new COVID-19 regulations and policies, Rockenbach said. The renovation will solve this issue, making the room a safer space for students.
“The mechanical systems in that space now are so old that we cannot ensure a consistent flow of air in the space, which is why, reluctantly, we have had to close the room to patrons during COVID,” Rockenbach wrote.
Spearheaded by Apicella + Bunton Architects, the renovation will have the goal of retaining the room’s charm while refreshing the study spaces to make them accessible and safe in the wake of the pandemic.
Since its opening in the 1930s, the L&B Reading Room has been a cherished study spot for students.
Basie Gitlin ’10, Yale University Library director of development, told the News that this will be the first time in the room’s 90 years of existence that it will see a full renovation.
“I’m both personally and professionally very excited about this project — personally because this has been one of my favorite spaces on campus since I was an undergraduate, and professionally because so many Yale alumni and friends share my sentiments, and I am looking forward to galvanizing their generosity around this important project,” Gitlin added.
Students were historically allowed to smoke within the room, which has contributed to the room’s antique look. Basie said that a thorough cleaning of the room’s ceiling and fireplace should “go a long way to restoring its original luster.”
Students who frequented the L&B Reading Room before its closure were aware of the long duration since the room’s most recent improvements. Before its closure, the room featured poor air conditioning and antique heating systems. Only certain spaces had proper lighting, as light fixtures aged and became less effective over time.
“I had to fight people to get the good spaces in the library with proper lighting!” Olivia Mooney ’20 told the News.
With renovations set to begin in 2022, L&B will not be open for multiple years. In the meantime, students have transitioned to other reading rooms in Sterling library, including the Starr Main Reading Room.
“Starr Reading Room is always so busy when I try to study there,” Sofia Verich ’25 said. “During the first week of school I actually searched for the Linonia and Brothers Reading Room after hearing about it from upperclassmen, and I was so disappointed it wasn’t open.”
Lovingly dubbed the “L&B room,” the Linonia and Brothers Reading Room is named after two of Yale’s first literary societies on campus — Linonia and Brothers in Unity, both of which were founded in the 18th century.
The renovation of the reading room carries with it cultural significance to students and alumni studying literature and English at the University.
“During my time in graduate school at Yale, Linonia and Brothers Reading Room was my favorite place to do research on literature,” Kate Baldwin GRD ’95 said. “You could practically feel the room’s history percolating from its walls. Dimly lit nooks provided overstuffed leather chairs for napping or getting on your Dostoevsky. I can’t wait to see the renovations.”
Rockenbach ensured that the room’s association with literary history and the charm students and faculty enjoyed in the reading room will be preserved. Renovations will promote the preservation of the room’s “traditional charm and style,” while still pursuing “updates and refreshments” as safety precautions.
Rockenbach ensured renovations will only improve the experience of the room for faculty and students, and will once again solidify the space as a center for dedicated study at the University.
“I wrote my entire senior thesis in L&B. I practically lived there!” wrote Kyra O’Brien ’19.
Until 1963, Linonia and Brothers Reading Room was known as a “stag room,” and was off limits to women until female graduate students protested to be allowed in.