Linderman Library was built in honor of Asa Packer's daughter, Lucy Packer Linderman. (Alyssa Taylor/B&W photo)

Linderman Library has rich history of renovations, legends


Lehigh’s Linderman Library, affectionately known as “Lindy” to students, has gained an impressive reputation, topping numerous lists of most beautiful college libraries.

A stop at Linderman usually results in a series of “oohs” and “ahhs” from prospective students on tours, taking in the stained glass windows; dark, cozy atmosphere and overall similarity of the library to “Harry Potter’s” Hogwarts.

Linderman Library in 1896 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Linderman Library in 1896 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Lehigh University Library Services, Linderman was funded in 1873 by Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer, following the death of his daughter Lucy Packer Linderman. The library, which was built to serve as a memory to his late daughter, officially opened in April 1878. Packer believed Lehigh needed a single library to merge all of the departments’ collections, and his funding for Linderman was the single largest monetary gift of his lifetime.

It was designed by well-known Philadelphia architect Addison Hutton, who designed more than 20 college libraries and facilities, including Lehigh’s own Coppee Hall Gymnasium, Packer Memorial Church and Chandler Chemistry Laboratory, as well as several prominent residences and churches, Lehigh’s Library Services reported. Its semi-circular plan and Venetian architecture was modeled after the British Museum.

According to a Lehigh University profile of Lucy Packer Linderman, her daughter, Sallie Linderman, checked out the first-ever book from Linderman. That now-historic book was the Bible.

The library’s collection was initially started by a student literary society in 1874, Lehigh’s Library Services says. It quickly grew, however, along with the student body.

In 1929, 20 alumni provided a $500,000 gift to expand the library and allow for a more vast collection of books, as well as even more beautiful architecture, such as the beloved rotunda.

The rotunda itself has also played an important part through history. Lene Samuelson, ’15, a member of the Association of Student Alumni, recalled a piece of Linderman trivia she learned during a Lehigh history session. During World War II, the stained glass ceiling had to be covered in order to detract attention from it as a landmark, she said. Bomber pilots knew of its location in close proximity to the SteelStacks and would have subsequently attacked a huge source of U.S. steel.

The next and most recent renovation to Linderman came in 2005, according to Library Services. This expansion included a significant more amount of space for the growing book collection and study spaces, as well as the development of Lucy’s Café, a meeting spot and coffee and food destination for students on the ground floor of Linderman.

Linderman Library appears on a Lehigh University postcard in 1907 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Linderman Library appears on a Lehigh University postcard in 1907 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

“Linderman has such an elite design and architecture, that once you walk in you feel sophisticated,” Francisca Onyiuke,’15, student assistant at Linderman, said. “It makes you realize you’re in an elite institution.”

Elements such as Lucy’s Cafe and the long dark wooden tables have led Linderman to traditionally being known as the “social” library. This is starkly different to that of Fairchild-Martindale Library, which opened in 1985.

Also known as “FML,” Fairchild-Martindale was created as a science and engineering library and is home to four floors of cubicles and small tables, perfect for a quiet and serious studying environment.
“The study spaces at Lindy are more open, inviting and comfortable,” Emily Prendergast, ’15, said. “It’s easier to go with friends and study at a big table, chill on the couches by the computers or eat and talk in Lucy’s.”

Margaret Dery, ’15, echoed Prendergast.

“It’s definitely more of a social place that attracts students looking for somewhere to study with friends, and the layout lends itself to that,” she said.

According to Complex Style’s article “The 25 Coolest College Libraries,” Linderman is home to an impressive array of rare books, specifically in the humanities collections. History buffs would be excited to see works such as Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and John Audubon’s four-volume elephant folio edition of “Birds of America.”

Onyiuke said Linderman has a far more substantial book collection than most other college libraries. Additionally, the vast array of study areas, from Lucy’s to the reading room to study rooms, allows for many different types of study habits.

Legend has it the library is haunted by a former patron, which some argue is Lucy Packer Linderman, who flickers the lights at the end of each night.

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