When you’re looking for the right college, you should always look into its library. Why? Several reasons:1. Because you can tell a lot about the quality of a college by how it organizes its library. 2. Because they offer dedicated places of quiet study that every student needs from time to time. 3. Because you’ll need to read a ton of books while you study, and some college libraries have a better selection than others. 4. Because the best libraries are bringing new technology and a range of innovative practices into learning.
In fact, as College Transition Publishing states, you can really consider libraries, “the nucleus of a college.” These centers of study make a huge difference to your degree. A good college library will mean that you’re happy studying, have appropriate materials and can motivate yourself into making your work so much better.
But in America, college libraries are not created equal. Some are very technologically out of date. Others are too small to offer study space for all the students that need them. And others just have a very limited selection of books on offer. That last point is really serious. It’s expensive to be a student, and you don’t want to spend all of your cash on books that should be made accessible to you for no extra charge!
Luckily, this list will highlight to you the American colleges that have put a lot of effort into their libraries. The 30 colleges below all have centers of study and research that look great, are well stocked, use the latest technologies and are large enough to accommodate all the students. And the selections are useful even if none of the colleges are what you’re considering, as you can compare and contrast to the ones that you are interested in. Just read and ask yourself, do my choices have libraries with facilities that compete with the colleges on this list?
Our sources rank a range of different criteria. Some focus on the number of books that are on the shelves. Others focus on the technological updates that colleges are implementing. Some compile student ratings of their colleges’ libraries. And some rank the college library by its beauty and visual appeal.
Our sources are here:
Business Insider, The 16 Coolest College Libraries In The Country: https://www.businessinsider.com/coolest-college-libraries-2014-4
Travel + Leisure, The Most Beautiful College Libraries in America: https://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/americas-most-beautiful-college-libraries#university-california-los-angeles
Princeton Review, Best College Library: https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings?rankings=best-college-library
College Xpress, Top 50 College Libraries: https://www.collegexpress.com/lists/list/top-50-largest-college-libraries/747/
College Raptor, 10 of the Most Amazing College Libraries in the US: https://www.collegeraptor.com/find-colleges/articles/student-life/10-amazing-college-libraries/
Los Angeles Times, Universities redesign libraries for the 21st century: fewer books, more space: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-college-libraries-20170419-story.html
US News, Four Reasons Why the Library Should Affect Your College Choice: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/right-school/choices/articles/2010/06/17/4-reasons-why-the-library-affects-your-college-choice
Thrillist, The 15 Most Beautiful College Libraries In America: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/best-college-campus-libraries
All the above articles’ ranking criteria are important factors in college libraries. So what our list does is analyze the sources and sort the colleges by most consistent strong performers. This means that this is the only list that has taken all the different ranking criteria of the respectable sources above and aggregated them. After ranking the colleges in this way, we’ve then conducted our own research to see why the methodology sources are so positive towards the college libraries featured and to ensure that our own ranking is valid. Through doing this, we’ve created something that provides an easy way for you to see what not just one site thinks of as the best college libraries, but which multiple sources agree are the libraries that give the best opportunities for students.
Our rankings are below:
30. Mount Holyoke College
Princeton Review considers this college to have the eighth best library in America. Mount Holyoke’s library facilities and equipment are expanding fast, so it won’t be surprising if it features on more best college library lists in the future. For instance, in 2017, it added more laptops to its inventory, digitized lots of its collected works, implemented a wireless projection system into its locations and much more. In fact, its 2017 list of accomplishments runs to 16 pages. Another incredible feature of this library is that it acts as a videography service for student events, providing recording, titling, and editing.
29. University of Oklahoma
The student ratings of Princeton Review place University of Oklahoma’s library department at 19th place nationally. College Xpress also notes that the college has over 5.5 million books in its collection. And like all leading college libraries, it has been renovating its facilities in recent years, so students can make the most out of the space. These renovations include redesigning 88,000 square feet of one library to accommodate collaborative research and study spaces. And University of Oklahoma’s renovation efforts have had a demonstrable impact; since one building’s renovation, it’s seen an 1100% increase in visits per month.
28. Vassar College
This college only appears on Princeton Review’s list, where it places as having the sixth best college library. But further research reveals that more methodology sources should definitely have featured it. Vassar College libraries boast over 50,000 rare books and more than 150,000 square feet of space. In fact, Vassar itself calls its libraries, “a central hub for the intellectual life of the campus.” If all this weren’t enough, then the main library’s reading room also includes self-care kits for students to use! No wonder they rate it so highly.
27. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
College Xpress notes that this college features the second largest book collection in America, with over 13 million works. So if you know that your degree will require the study of many rare volumes, then the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign may be your best choice. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign also conducts groundbreaking research that you can’t find in any other college. This is because the library department has some of the greatest leadership that proactively expands resources, leverages international engagement and fosters a culture of collective research and development.
26. Colgate University
The students at Colgate University love using their library. This is a fact because Princeton Review’s student ratings have led to the Colgate University library department being named the second best in America. One aspect that has caused these high rankings is that students can use the library study space and the library cafe 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, during daylight hours, students have access to much more, including, meeting rooms, learning labs, media centers, group study rooms, seminar rooms and reading rooms.
25. Brown University
Brown University has achieved the perfect balance of book storage and study space. While it has over 4 million books in its library (making it College Xpress’s 41st largest college library in America) the main focus is upon fostering a studious atmosphere. Brown University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi told US News that, “we’ve made our library spaces more inviting, more personal.” A list of the contents of a Brown library certainly confirms this statement to be true. Located in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr library, for instance, is a cafe and shared study space, along with the more traditional quiet study spaces.
24. Rhode Island School of Design
Despite being a tiny state, Rhode Island features two colleges with some of the best libraries in America. Rhode Island School of Design makes Travel + Leisure and Thrillist’s lists of the most beautiful college libraries because its Fleet Library is an incredible renovation. It was formerly a bank in the town of Providence. However, in 2006, the college created something incredibly original with its library conversion, utilizing the original clock and bank vaults for present-day usage. This library’s mission is to provide, “a place for inquiry, inspiration, and research.”
23. Loyola University Chicago
Both Business Insider and Travel + Leisure feature this college’s Klarchek Information Commons Library due to a unique asset: an inspiring view of Lake Michigan. The view makes the open layout of much of the library feel significantly larger than it already is, creating a work and study environment like no other. Loyola University Chicago also uses its library space to host important discussions. These are wide-ranging, from talks on the importance of being funny to race and gender conversations.
22. Ohio State University
Thrillist notes that Ohio State University’s William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library is an incredible retro restored work of architectural genius, thanks to its 2009 renovation. Though this renovation was completed before other college library renovations in this list, the improvements are still impressive today. These include glass walls that let in generous amounts of light, the conversion of a mechanical room into a study area and a 30-foot ceiling being opened up in many areas. College Xpress notes that at over 6 million books, Ohio State University has the 20th largest collection in America. The library also creates culturally important exhibitions, such as ones that look at the death of Martin Luther King Jr and the Ohio State student uprising that followed.
21. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Business Insider notes that the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library gives the college a unique record. It has the largest set of documents related to a single state due to its North Carolina Collection. Outside of this feat, College Xpress notes that this college’s libraries have over 7 million books in total, making it the 17th largest collection in America. Recent additions to the college’s library facilities include a new podcast studio, navigational tools and comfortable furniture (including footrests!)
20. Washington University in Saint Louis
Though several colleges have larger book collections than Washington University in Saint Louis, few have better library services. College Xpress states that this college has over 4 million books, making it the 38th largest collection in America. Princeton Review names it the 10th best college library in America. And Washington University in Saint Louis has just made its library services even better with the transformation of its Olin building. In spring 2018, this library renovation launched a new AV studio, study and collaboration spaces, an exploration center, a tower of collections, exhibition spaces, a new cafe and much more.
19. Pennsylvania State University
With over 5 million works, College Xpress notes that Pennsylvania State University has the 27th largest book collection in America. But its services are apparently better than its physical book selection, as Princeton Review’s student ratings name it the ninth best library department in America. This may be due to the range of the library buildings. There are currently 36 different locations of the library across Pennsylvania. Additionally, most of the libraries are highly accessible, with the college’s largest library on University Park open 24 hours from Monday to Thursday. Other libraries are open from different times, but they usually open early in am and close late in the pm.
18. University of Wisconsin, Madison
The University of Wisconsin, Madison’s library manages to get two 12th place rankings on the methodology lists. College Xpress names it the 12 largest book collection in a college in America, with over 8 million books. Princeton Review’s student ratings place the college’s library at 12th on the source’s list. In the last year, University of Wisconsin, Madison has created a master plan for improving its library facilities over the next 25 years. The key change that this plan will see is using physical space for more productive activities. It will do this by reducing the current book space from 327,000 square feet to 123,000 square feet.
17. Stanford University
Princeton Review’s student ratings have led to the source ranking Stanford University as having the fifth best college library in America. Additionally, College Xpress notes that with 8.5 million books, it also has the 11th largest collection in the USA. And the library is one of several in America that is currently working on redefining how library material is discovered. For instance, it was recently given a $4 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to integrate library data into the internet. This means that soon its library catalog will be able to be intelligently searched online for the first time.
16. The University of Texas at Austin
With almost 10 million books, the University of Texas at Austin has the seventh largest collection of any college library, according to College Xpress. However, in recent years, this college has become more focused on its library offering incredible and helpful service to students. A librarian at the college told US News that it is following a strong trend nationwide. Indeed, the library at the University of Texas at Austin’s work in student services is top notch. The department helps students with citing sources, research guides, workshops, writing, public speaking or anything that they can manage!
15. University of California, Berkeley
This college has almost 12 million books, meaning that it’s the college with the fourth highest amount of books in America, according to College Xpress. But until very recently, the college had a much larger selection. The LA Times points out that University of California, Berkeley students ran a campaign to reduce the number of books in favor of creating more study space. The result is the perfect balance between old-school referencing and modern study. This is perhaps best shown in the way that the library now has facilities that have recently allowed its historical wax audio cylinders, which are among the oldest audio recording ever made, to be heard and converted to digital copies for the first time.
14. Boston College
The libraries at Boston College are both practical and scenic. This is best shown in Bapst Library, which College Raptor notes has 400 study spaces and is often compared to expensive movie sets. Business Insider also notes that the library’s stained glass windows are both inspiring and beautiful. Study spaces at the college extend beyond the Bapst library, however. There are also group and individual study spaces in the O’Neill Library, the Theology Ministry Library, and Social Work Libraries. And several of the libraries also offer late night study spaces, for any night owls enrolled.
13. Harvard University
When it comes to sheer numbers, Harvard University’s library comes out on top. College Xpress states that it has by far the most books of any college library in America. Overall, there are almost 17 million different books in its library, which is also almost four million more than the next highest college. And LA Times points out that the college is currently being modernized, with more space being dedicated towards study space. Luckily, the majority of its extensive book selection is going to remain as well, as faculty successfully protested a plan to remove 90% of its book material. In fact, there is no one Harvard library. It is split across more than 70 different locations, meaning that the quality and offerings vary hugely from place to place.
12. Johns Hopkins University
Business Insider notes that Johns Hopkins University’s George Peabody Library is so beautiful that it is also a popular wedding venue in Baltimore. Travel + Leisure calls this library’s interior one of the most beautiful in the world. College Raptor lists it as the seventh most amazing college library. It also states that non-college students can access the building, which may interrupt study time. However, the four other Johns Hopkins University libraries all have their own touches that make them an inspiring and incredible place to work, such as stained glass windows, open study spaces, and period furnishings.
11. Lehigh University
This is a small college with a big library. Three methodology sources have been blown away by the design of Lehigh University’s Linderman Library. Travel + Leisure describes this library as having, “gleaming wood floors flanked by half rings of cast-iron stacks, and crowned by a stained glass skylight.” Business Insider and College Raptor express similar sentiments. And while this college doesn’t have a book collection that can rival some of the other universities on this list, the quality of its books are second to none. For instance, its rare book collection has, “over 40,000 volumes, with first editions of English and American literature from the 17th to the 19th centuries.”
10. University of Pennsylvania
The Fisher Fine Arts Library is the University of Pennsylvania’s most distinctive library building. Business Insider reports that it is a national historic landmark. Travel + Leisure states that the building’s interior and exterior are equally impressive, with numerous arches making it look unique. College Xpress notes that the college’s combined book collection is over 6 million works. The college certainly has some amazing books that cannot be found elsewhere. For example, in 1784, King Louis XVI of France gave 100 books from his own collection to the library.
9. Princeton University
Both College Raptor and Business Insider place Princeton University on their lists but for different library buildings. College Raptor is entranced by the Linderman Library building, its 1878 masterpiece of architecture. Business Insider, on the other hand, raves about the ultra-modern Lewis Library. These conflicting buildings show how Princeton celebrates the old while relentlessly pursuing the new. And sometimes the old and new are combined, such as with the Firestone Library, which was built in 1948 but has been undergoing an extensive renovation since 2010. Additionally, College Xpress notes that the combined collection of books at Princeton’s libraries is over 7 million volumes, making it the 14th largest in America.
8. Cornell University
Princeton Review places Cornell University at seventh for best college libraries in America. College Xpress states that it has over 8 million books, making it the 13th largest collection in the USA. Business Insider considers it to be one of the coolest college libraries. And Cornell’s library department is one of the greatest things about the college. The proof for this comes from the college’s own surveys, where, “Cornell’s graduating seniors consistently rate the library the No. 1 service on campus.”
7. Yale University
The methodology sources show that Yale University offers both quality and quantity when it comes to its library. College Xpress states that Yale has the third highest number of books of any American college, at slightly less than 13 million volumes. Business Insider considers Yale to have one of the USA’s coolest libraries. College Raptor considers Yale to have the ninth most amazing college library in America. By far what draws the most acclaim among Yale’s library system is its Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which is, “one of the world’s largest libraries devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts.”
6. Columbia University
Princeton Review’s student-generated rankings place Columbia University at the very top of its best college libraries list. And College Xpress states that when it comes to sheer numbers, the college has the fifth highest amount of books in America, at over 11 million. And no matter how you look at it, Columbia University’s library facilities are amazing. Students can study 24 hours a day. It provides access to an Oculus Rift. It has over 4,000 seats, and it even offers stress relief activities, such as therapy dogs and puzzles.
5. University of Washington
College Xpress states that the University of Washington has the 15th largest book collection of any college library, at over 7 million volumes. And Business Insider, Travel + Leisure and College Raptor are all amazed by the Suzzallo Library, which looks and feels more like a cathedral than a library. However, the University of Washington’s library department has much more to be proud of than one incredible library. It has whole library buildings dedicated to a particular subject, such as art, built environments and East Asia.
4. University of Chicago
Five out of eight methodology sources cite University of Chicago’s library. College Xpress states that it has almost 10 million books, making it the eighth highest collection in America. Business Insider considers it to be one of the 16 coolest college libraries in America. Travel + Leisure praises one of college’s library building’s architecture. Princeton Review’s student-generated rankings place it at fourth. And lastly, College Raptor names the college’s library as the most amazing in America. The University of Chicago library department’s current strategic priorities are to evolve into a changing world environment, empower faculty and students, advance digital scholarship, enhance access to scholarly resources and collaborate on and off campus to extend the college’s impact.
3. North Carolina State University
College Raptor names North Carolina State University’s James B. Hunt Library the second most amazing in America. Business Insider is in complete agreement, naming it one of the 16 coolest libraries in America. This college’s library department overall is Princeton Review’s 15th best in America, and College Xpress names it the 37th largest collection, with over 4 million books. The James B. Hunt Library is indeed an incredibly impressive place. North Carolina State University’s website proclaims it to be a library of the future, and it’s easy to see why. A robotic system delivers books to students, which is both flashy and practical, as it uses one-ninth of the space of a traditional library system. This means that more space can be used for 4K video studios, art walls, auditoriums, cafes, creative studios, workstations and more.
2. University of California, Los Angeles
There is almost unanimous agreement among methodology lists that UCLA has one of the world’s greatest libraries. College Xpress notes that it has over 9 million books, which suitably makes it the ninth largest college library book collection in America. Business Insider states that it has one of the coolest libraries in the USA. Travel + Leisure notes that one of its library buildings is incredibly beautiful. College Raptor considers it to be the 10th best college library in America. Also, LA Times notes that UCLA has been a pioneer in creating the modern iteration of college libraries, due to it clearing an entire floor of its library for open seating, group study and collaboration spaces in 2011. UCLA’s library also allows students to borrow laptops. And students borrow these more than 100,000 a year.
1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Five different methodology sources rave about the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s library. College Xpress notes that, when it comes to the quantity of books, this college has almost 11 million, making it the sixth largest collection in America. Business Insider considers it to have one of the coolest libraries in America. Travel + Leisure thinks that the college’s library is breathtaking. Thrillist considers it to be possibly among the most impressive Gothic buildings in America. Lastly, College Raptor names the University of Michigan as having the fourth most amazing library in America. This praise mostly extends to the college’s Cook Legal Research Library, which is the most Harry Potteresque college building that you can find in America. However, the University of Michigan is also dedicated to offering a modern way to use its library. For instance, it recently launched a new search system for its library database, which combines several previously used tools.