Best College Libraries

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Throughout history, college libraries have served as a central setting of learning and research for students seeking to advance in their studies. It is in libraries where students have been able to check out books, conduct advanced research, work with classmates, and enjoy a quiet space that promotes accelerated learning. Today, college libraries continue to be physical places that encourage and facilitate learning, though they have extended their reach into the digital realm as university teaching practices have quickly shifted, making many services and resources accessible through their websites. In this way, it has become increasingly important for libraries to provide blended learning environments where they give users access to the latest online resources and technologies while continuing to accommodate a physical learning setting.

Below is a list of the best college libraries in the United States who have provided a balance between digital and physical learning spaces and serve as a central aspect of their college campuses.

See Methodology
Rank Name Location Description
1 Princeton University

Princeton University in New Jersey is one of the best academic programs found in the world. Today, they have more than <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.

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2 Georgetown University

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.

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3 University of Pennsylvania

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.

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4 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

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.

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5 Brigham Young University

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.

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6 Lehigh University

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.

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7 Diné College

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.

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8 Columbia University

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.

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9 Cornell University

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.

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10 Duke University

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.

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11 Stanford University

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.

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12 U.S. Military Academy at West Point

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.

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13 Emory University

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.

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14 Yale University

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.

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15 Boston College

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.

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16 University of Chicago

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."

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17 Baylor University

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.

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18 Rhode Island School of Design

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.

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19 Middlebury College

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.

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20 Johns Hopkins University

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.

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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.