Ellie Park, Photography Editor

Sterling Memorial Library’s Linonia and Brothers Reading Room will open to students on April 15 after undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation that began in 2021.

The L&B room, located just to the right of the Cross Campus entrance to Sterling, closed when the library shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when Sterling reopened on Aug. 31 of that same year, the L&B room remained closed because the room failed to meet pandemic air-handling standards required by the University, according to Patricia Carey, the Yale Library director of communications. 

“What we’re able to do with this renovation is restore an important room that has been has been in the hearts and minds of generations of alumni, but also create a space for future Yale students that I think will be equally delightful and modernized,” University Librarian Barbara Rockenbach told the News. “We’ve got a track record of this room being important, and I know it will be to future generations of students as well.”

Among the features added during the renovation, which aimed to restore architect James Gamble Rogers’ initial vision for the space, are modern heating, cooling and electrical systems. Rockenbach said that the renovation was more about upgrading the “mechanicals” of the room while restoring and maintaining its history.

The L&B room’s restoration costs $10 million, according to lead donor and University Library Council member Fred Berg ’66. 

Berg told the News that the $10 million figure was the latest he had heard. Basie Gitlin ’10, the Yale Library director of development, declined to verify the total cost of the project beyond Berg’s estimate but directed the News to the gift guide for the L&B renovation on the For Humanity capital campaign’s site

The gift guide specifies that gifts of $100,000 or more for the renovation will be recognized on a group plaque. Gifts of $1,000,000 or more, according to the guide, correspond with the naming of one of the reading room’s six alcoves.

“What I can say is that we’ve gotten a really wonderful groundswell of support from people from across generations, and at a number of different gift levels who are supporting this project,” Gitlin said.

The renovation is part of a larger University project, Sterling 2031, to renovate and reimagine aspects of the library by the library’s centennial. Previous projects included the creation of the Hanke Exhibition Gallery, the relocation of the Yale Film Archive to Sterling’s seventh floor and the creation of the Franke Family Digital Humanities Laboratory.

According to Rockenbach, the University is considering various “opportunity spaces” for renovations. She added that the University is considering renovating the International Room and the Periodical Reading Room on the first floor. 

Rockenbach said that as part of Sterling’s “master plan process,” the library is working closely with an architecture firm to find other opportunities throughout the entire building. She added that the University Library Council is also looking to add more collaborative spaces in Sterling based on feedback from the Student Library Advisory Committee.

“There have been many, many renovations of Sterling in the last decade,” Rockenbach said. “L&B is in a way a kickoff of Sterling 2031, allowing us to show the campus that we will carefully and intentionally renovate these spaces, and ensure that the spaces will fit the needs of future scholarship.”

Yale Library Associates member John Raben ’67 heads the Rossi Family Foundation, which gives seed money to new nonprofits and operational support for existing nonprofits, and made a donation to restore one of the room’s alcoves. 

Raben told the News that other projects that the foundation has supported at Yale include the Rossi Glee Club room and the Rossi Foundation Gallery of Art of the Ancient Americas.

“Like every Yale undergraduate, I think one of the things I remember fondly would be L&B,” Raben said. “It’s been a pleasure for the foundation to support Yale, and I’m delighted to be able to support the University, particularly the library, and hopefully it’ll benefit students for many, many years to come.”

A previous renovation closed off two of the entrances’ three archways with wood paneling to create an anteroom to house the library’s bibliographic press. Rockenbach said that finding the best place for the press is among the priorities for the Sterling 2031 project.

Berg made the “leading gift” for the L&B renovation that was put toward restoring the L&B room entrance, which will be renamed the Berg Family Foyer. 

Berg said that for his 50th class reunion in 2016, he proposed that his class financially support the L&B room renovation. Yale’s Office of Development, however, decided that the project was not a priority at that time, according to Berg. By 2020, Berg said, the project reached the University’s top list of priorities. 

He added that when members of the Library Council floated the idea of the L&B room’s renovation in 2020, he “took the first leap” and made a “significant gift” to restore the foyer in his parents’ memory.

“I wanted to do this in part because I was a first-generation, low-income student and neither of my parents had gone to college,” Berg told the News. “I wanted to do something in their honor because they made some sacrifices, so I could attend Yale, and … stimulated me to become a better student.”

Carey said that the vision for the 17,000-volume collection in the reading room is centered around “leisure reading,” which she said is in line with the original vision for the room as a “private library” or “grand living room.”

According to Gitlin, the foyer will house “several hundred” browsable and circulating books on Yale and New Haven, which are being selected in partnership with the University archivist.

“It’s very deliberate that we’ve chosen both Yale and New Haven because of the importance of the fact that Yale is in New Haven, and we’ve increasingly been focused on our partnerships and the importance of the city we live in,” Rockenbach said.

Sterling Memorial Library opened in 1931.

Benjamin Hernandez covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously reported on international affairs at Yale. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, he is a sophomore in Trumbull College majoring in Global Affairs.