The Best College Libraries for 2015

The Best College Libraries for 2015

Graduating high school seniors and adults who are planning to go back to college know how difficult it is to make the big decision: which college to attend. The college a person graduates from will mold their professional network, affect their ability to land a job, and possibly even play a part in the introducing them to the person they marry and more. The bottom line is that college choice matters. So how does a person go about making this decision? Of course they should start with things like career goals, what they wish to major in, finances, and location, but another lesser known thing to think about is the college library. Just a quick walk through a college’s library will give prospective students a glimpse into the inner workings of the college’s student body. The library is where many students choose to study and is the go-to source for assistance, research, and more. Here are some reasons why a college’s library is so important.

Help from Real People

Professors are busy, teacher’s assistants are busy – sometimes college students feel like they’re all alone in their studies, but it doesn’t have to be like this. The best college libraries in the country staff highly educated and skilled librarians to help students find exactly the information they are looking for – which ranges from research for school assignments to life advice and beyond. College librarians can also help with questions about the college in general, career preparation, and resources for career planning.


Every person is looking for a different vibe from the college they attend. Some people want parties while others prefer the idea of late nights sipping wine and discussing 17th century Russian literature. The library is a great place to tap into the academic vibe of the college a prospective student is considering attending. Is there lots of open study area? Are cozy chairs tucked in among the books for stealing away into a novel or particularly compelling scientific research paper? Students should consider what college atmosphere they are looking for and find a college library that reflects this.

Digital Resources

Books are great, but these days it’s all about online research and learning. Access to digital libraries, media sources, and research databases are expensive, but college students get to enjoy these references for free for as long as they are students. Finding a college that offers extensive access to the best digital resources is a great sign that they’re offering a quality education.

Below is a list of the best college libraries. The methodology used to determine this list included surveys sent to current students and interviews of experienced professionals in the industry. Additionally, the number of books, digital resources, computer labs, and other statistics were considered.

The Best College Library Systems:

  1. Princeton University


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    Princeton University in New Jersey is one of the best academic programs found in the world. Today, they have over 10 libraries that create some of the finest resources in academia. Popular names that you have the likely heard before include the Mendel Music Library, Furth Plasma Physics Library, East Asian Library, and the Mudd Manuscript Library.

  2. Georgetown University


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    Georgetown University offers students a chance to be a part of an award-winning university library system. Students, researchers, faculty and alumni are the focus at each of the local and international branches of Georgetown libraries. Adding to previous goals, this library wants to be known around the world for being the “icon of transformation” by 2020.

  3. University of Pennsylvania


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    The University of Pennsylvania takes pride in their online catalog called Franklin, and uses it to facilitate all that their library system has to offer. Much more than a single branch, there are several specific collections disbursed into 10 different university libraries. Locations of notoriety include the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library, and the Dental Medicine Library.

  4. University of Michigan


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    The University of Michigan has several prominent libraries that are associated with their system including the Gerald R. Ford Library, Transportation Research Institute Library, and the Bentley Historical Library. Staff from this library system are also associated with initiatives co-authored by Harvard such as the 2010 Digital Library Project.

  5. Brigham Young University


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    Brigham Young University has a long history of bringing top-rated services to their library patrons. In addition, this university system library operates award-winning facilities including their Motion Picture Archive and the genealogy libraries. Altogether, this university contains over 15 branches at campuses in Utah and Nevada.

  6. Lehigh University

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    Lehigh University offers facilities at two major libraries on their campus including the Linderman Library and the Fairchild-Martindale Library. Like major universities throughout the United States, most of their periodicals are in digital format and they have extensive computer research capabilities. One interesting note is that the Federal Depository government document collection is housed at this campus.

  7. Diné College

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    Diné College is located in Tsaile, Arizona and has library branches in Crownpoint and Shiprock. Their Shiprock main branch is a stunning work of art that reflects their architecture leanings and Navajo historic background. They also have satellite branches in Tuba City, Kayenta, Chinle, Window Rock, and Ganado to meet their students’ needs.

  8. Columbia University

    Columbia University

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    Columbia University is a top-ranking institution, and their libraries reflect this standard. Students can enjoy digitalized access to important resources and eclectic presentations as well. For example, Butler Library employs a graphic novel librarian. Popular libraries housed at Columbia University include the Teachers College Library, Columbia Center for Oral History, Journalism Library, and the Jewish Theological Seminary Library.

  9. Cornell University

    Cornell University

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    Cornell University houses one of the largest library collections in the world. Currently, they are the recipients of several grants that make this one of the most technologically advanced library systems. Along with several library branches that include standards such as health sciences, engineering and the humanities, they also have unique libraries. Odd libraries that you only find en masse at Cornell are the Hotel Library, Africana Library, Ornithology Library and The Geneva Experiment Library.

  10. Duke University

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    Duke University has several awards under their belt, and offers 24-hour service at two of their branches on campus. They also have collections of notoriety including the Gothic Reading Room and displays such as the Botanical Treasures from Duke’s Hidden Library. Duke libraries with a notable reputation are the Pearse Marine Lab Memorial Library, the Bostock Library, and the David Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

  11. Stanford University

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    Stanford University has a diverse set of library facilities including the Math and Statistics Library, the Herbert Hoover Archives, and the wildly popular Archive of Recorded Sound. As a university that frequently publishes, one of the benefits of their facilities for students is Stanford’s extensive research support staff.

  12. U.S Military Academy At West Point


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    The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is a premiere library facility in many subjects, and it has a special focus on military document collections. Along with standard digitalized university library access, students are also allowed to use special collections. For example, the Sylvanus Thayer Collection is an archive found exclusively in West Point libraries.

  13. Emory University


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    Emory University has a state-of-the-art digitized library system with a number of branches on campus. Popular branches include the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Goizueta Business Library, Robert W. Woodruff Library, and the Oxford College Library. Other notable points of interest are the Pitts Theology Library, Emory Women Writers Resource Project, and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

  14. Yale University


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    Yale University is a university well-known for its publications. This solid academic research is fully supported by its library system, and students reap the benefits. While most major research universities boast about 25 branches or less, there are over 50 special libraries and collections at Yale. Facilities of notoriety include the Babylonian Collection, Astronomy Library, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, and the Benjamin Franklin Collection.

  15. Boston College


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    Boston College leads the nation in education, and also has a library system that students adore. In addition to all the basics, special libraries at this campus include the Irish Music Center and the Irish Music Archives at the John J. Burns Library. Other notable institutions are the Theology and Ministry Library and the Weston Observatory Houses.

  16. University of Chicago


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    University of Chicago libraries are often featured in news articles due to the popular Chicago Jazz Archives. For students, they can access information in special collections through the five main campus library branches including the D’Angelo Law Library, Eckhart, Regenstein, Mansueto, and SSA. This library system is actively engaged in popular culture and has recently hosted events focused on zines. They also have digitized many popular rare works such as Walt Whitman’s, “The Bible as Poetry.”

  17. Baylor University


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    Baylor University allows students to access its facilities 24-hours a day, and provides them with a fully a digitized computer accessible system. This focus on technology includes Baylor’s exclusive archive collections such as the Institute for Oral History. Other unique things about this library system are the extensive JFK archives, the Southern Baptist Annuals Collection, the Crouch Fine Arts Library’s Collection of American Popular Sheet Music, and the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project found in the Royce-Darden Collection.

  18. Rhode Island School of Design


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    The Rhode Island School of Design centralizes its media and research-related resources at the Fleet Library. Students attending this school will have access to art-related academic resources such as the Ruth Laxson Artist Book Archive and the RISD Visual Resources Library. With over 12,000 pieces of rare printed media, the Special Collections section of the Fleet Library also has ephemera such as the Jack Lenor Larsen Collection of Textile Swatches and the Stanley Moss Collection of Pop-up Books.

  19. Middlebury College


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    Middlebury College has a strong library system with four main branches. Students can enjoy the same benefits found at major universities such as access to computers and a digitized collection of library resources. In addition to the basic services, there are also five special collections including the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection and the Julian W. Abernethy Collection of American Literature.

  20. Johns Hopkins University


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    Johns Hopkins University is one of the top medical research institutions in the world, and the library system at their campus reflects this history. While their system is centered around the Sheridan Libraries, they also have facilities that are focused on music, earth sciences, and international affairs.

  21. Vassar College

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    Vassar College is situated in Poughkeepsie, New York, and touts some of the finest programming in the current college library scene. In addition to their fully digitized and computer accessible main library, Vassar also has a separate building for the art, digital, and music libraries. One special aspect of their library system is the Vassar College Rare Book Collection.

  22. University of Wisconsin- Madison


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    The University of Wisconsin — Madison library system has a student-friendly website with a wealth of resources. In addition to their main campus branch, they have over 30 special reading rooms, collections, and learning support centers. Unique facilities include the American Indian Studies Library, the Hasler Laboratory of Limnology, the Wisconsin Water Library, and the Schwerdtfeger Space Sciences Library.

  23. University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign


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    The University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign is on the map for its academic research and publishing. This means that students have every opportunity to access top-ranking resource tools through the university’s libraries. Other points of interest at this library include the Gaming Collection, the Illinois History and Abraham Lincoln Collections, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

  24. Indiana University Bloomington


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    Indiana University Bloomington is popular in the academic world for arts and humanities research. Adding to this is a modern library facility designed with the student in mind. Although many of the 30 library branches and special collections focus on common subjects, many are rare. For instance, this library system includes the Optometry Library, the GLBT Library, and Archives of African American Music and Culture.

  25. Ohio State University- Columbus


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    Ohio State University — Columbus is a prestigious academic focal point for the entire state. Producing some of the finest research in the country, the library staff at this university promotes a publishing spirit with a fully digitized set of resources. In their 15 branch libraries, there are a wide range of special collections including the Early Modern Printed Book archive and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

  26. The University of Arizona

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    The University of Arizona has a fully funded library system with an impressive list of resources for students. While most activities are centralized around the main library, there are other branches on the campus. Distinctive offerings of this campus’ library are the Center for Creative Photography, the Middle East Collection, and the East Asian Studies Collection.

  27. University of Virginia

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    The University of Virginia impresses with a wide variety of options for their students. Fully digitized, the library resources are found in over 10 different branches to provide students with as much computer access as possible. What makes this library system exclusive is the contributions of the founder, President Thomas Jefferson. Along with their large collection of Jefferson-related manuscripts, this is also a U.S. federal regional depository with over three million pieces of archival material.

  28. University of Oklahoma

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    The University of Oklahoma prides itself on having one of the best library systems in the region. Expectations from students are met through resources such as digital journals, databases and access to computers. They also have five fully staffed branches and several special collections that help students meet their research needs.

  29. Northwestern University

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    Northwestern University is one of the most sought after universities in the country. Along with that, they have revered academic library resources that undergraduate students enjoy as much as their professors. In conjunction with the best electronic journals and databases, they also have several specialized libraries and rare collections.

  30. University of Iowa

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    The University of Iowa library system has exceptional features that engage their students. This includes a long list of digitize resources and computer access for students. Started in 1855, the current library system has over 50 different specialized collection management librarians. Included in the areas of expertise are Brazilian Literature, Criminology, French Literature, and Military Science.

  31. Arizona State University

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    Arizona State University is a sought-after library resource for professionals and students alike. Open 24-hours during finals, the Hayden Library is the main focus of the campus. Two of the internationally acclaimed special collections from this library are the Labriola National American Indian Data Center and the Architecture and Environmental Design Library.

  32. University of Georgia

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    The University of Georgia allows students to access millions of digital resources through their esteemed library system. While they are focused on two main branches, they provide an exhaustive list of resources for initiating research. They also have over 100,000 rare books and six million original documents related to the history of Georgia.

  33. University of Kansas

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    The University of Kansas has a wealth of opportunities for their students, and this includes their digitized libraries. With nine branches throughout campus, students can use the computers to easily conduct all of their undergraduate research projects. One aspect that differentiates this library system from others is a long list of expert subject librarians.

  34. Washington University


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    Washington University in St. Louis offers more to their students than top-rated professors. To back up this academic environment, their Olin Library branch is open 24-hours a day. Along with the high-tech facilities, special resources that are inviting to students are the Modern Graphic History Library and the Film and Media Archive.

  35. North Carolina State University

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    Raleigh engages students in as many ways as possible, and this includes their prestigious library system. One of the key features is that they have more than one branch that has 24-hour service for students. Another exceptional resource that students can access is the special manuscript collection that has a large number of agriculture and architecture pieces.

  36. McGill University

    McGill University has many unique collections in their library of resources. In addition to providing students with revered high-tech library access, they also have several branches with an individualized focus. For example, they have about 50 different special collected works that include obscure subjects such as Islamic Studies, Mining and Materials Engineering, Slavic Studies, and the Mossman Collection on the History of Science and of Ideas.

  37. University of Colorado, Boulder

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    The University of Colorado, Boulder has a fully digitized library system with a webpage that has the student in mind. On campus, students can access six different branches, but the Norlin Library is open 24-hours a day. Along with a helpful staff, this library has an emphasis on providing research assistance to undergraduate students.

  38. University of Maryland, College Park

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    The University of Maryland, College Park creates a foundation for their students’ education with their extensive library resources. With eight branches in total, students are able to be fully independent and access library staff as necessary. Some of the exceptional offerings from this library system include the International Piano Archives and special performing arts collections.

  39. University of Rochester

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    The University of Rochester is a top university for undergraduates for many reasons, and their library resources are one of them. Centered around the 24-hour Gleason Library, there are about 10 other branches associated with this campus. All of them offer computer facilities and a fully digitized set of academic journal resources.

  40. University of Florida

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    The University of Florida does not leave students lacking in the library resources department. Centralized around the 24-hour West Library main campus branch, there are nine other facilities that students can use for completing their homework. Specialized media resources found at these libraries include the Judaica Library, Architecture and Fine Arts Library, and the Latin American Collection.

  41. University of Southern California

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    The University of Southern California meets students’ needs with a fully digitized set of resources that promote academic research. Along with a user-friendly website, students can use the computer resources at any of the 10 campus library facilities. Aspects of this library system that drawn national notoriety are the East Asia, Cinematic Arts, and ONE National Gay and Lesbian archives.

  42. University of South Carolina- Columbia

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    The University of South Carolina — Columbia focuses most of their attention on the Thomas Cooper Central Library, but has far more to offer students than this. For example, special collections can be found at all seven campus library branches. One of the acclaimed aspects of this university library system is its large collection of oral histories that are available in digital form.

  43. University of California, Berkeley

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    The University of California, Berkeley has the type of obscure degrees that top-ranking European universities commonly offer. With this in mind, their library system has unique contributions that are available to students. To reinforce the point, they set themselves apart from other university library systems by providing online library support through web chat, phone, and e-mail.

  44. University of California- Los Angeles

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    The University of California — Los Angeles is known for more than been surrounded by Hollywood celebrities. Instead, it has a first-rate library that provides students with access to special collections and all of the undergraduate resources they will need for completing coursework. This library also has a special mission to provide all patrons with accessibility to reference materials through their expert staff.

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