The Washington University Libraries are a powerful network of academic resources featuring 12 libraries (10 on the Danforth Campus, one at West Campus, one at the Medical School); vast print and electronic collections; and expert librarians whose first priority is helping students and faculty find the information they need.

The center of this rich network is John M. Olin Library, a 197,000-square-foot research library housing humanities, social sciences, engineering, and special collections; and extended-hours study space; reading rooms; lounges; and small-group studies. The other libraries house collections serving specific departments or schools. See the Library Guide for more information.

The vision for the libraries is now captured by three words: Curation, Collaboration and Community. Curation—organizing and maintaining collections—is at the heart of our bibliographic traditions. Collaboration speaks to our desire to partner and engage in the dynamic academic environment. By including Community, we focus our attention on both the work environment, our library community and beyond.

It is a leadership priority of the libraries to balance traditional elements of the libraries’ mission of providing access to books and print or electronic resources, expertise in research, and quiet contemplative spaces for students and scholars to study with the emerging elements of digital archiving, instructional technology, data visualization and data-intensive scholarship, enriching our special collections, collaborating with external organizations, and providing a collegial social environment for student exploration and learning. Tension among these elements of our mission is to some degree inevitable, and we will need to be vigilant to ensure that the libraries’ full story is heard in all our communications and reflected in our decisions.

The Strategic Plan is the management framework we use to propel our vision into action. It’s our way of making sure that we focus on the most important priorities, and stay efficient, agile and responsive in a rapidly changing academic environment.

An overview of each of the objectives can be found in the Washington University Libraries 2017 Strategic Plan. For other questions or concerns, please contact: Carol Mollman, Assessment Coordinator and Chair of the Strategic Plan Committee at mollman@wustl.edu.

The University’s original library, located in Ridgley Hall, was built in 1907. By 1946, the University Library owned 46,000 volumes and consisted of 14 school and departmental libraries in addition to Ridgley. The larger and modern Olin Library opened in 1962 and was renovated in 2004 to meet the needs of the 21st century academic community.

Newer library facilities include the Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library, which opened in 2006 and serves art, architecture, art history, and archaeology. The Ronald Rettner Earth & Planetary Sciences Library opened in 2005.

The Libraries house more than 3.6 million books, journals, and other print materials; 2.5 million microforms; 50,000 AV titles; and have access to more than 65,000 electronic journals and more than 500,000 e-books. The collections are comprised of materials in a number of languages; after English, the top languages collected are German, Spanish, French, and Chinese.

Of particular note among the Libraries’ collections are the Film & Media Archive’s Henry Hampton Collection, an archive of unique materials documenting the civil rights movement and other aspects of American history, the Eames & Young and Russell Sturgis architectural photograph collections, the Modern Literature Collection which is part of the Manuscript Collection, and the Contemporary German Literature Collection. As a government documents depository, the Libraries provide access to federal information in a variety of formats.

The digital library, the online gateway to all digital collections at the University, is administered by the Digital Library Services unit of the Libraries. Digital Library Services (created in 2006) offers support to scholars creating digital projects, and promotes, houses, and preserves these projects.

Students, faculty, and staff can get books from other libraries via MOBIUS, which allows them to request books from more than 60 Missouri libraries and pick them up at whichever WU library they specify, or Interlibrary Loan, which provides materials from libraries around the world.

Electronic Resources

The Libraries offer instant access to vast online resources. Using our website, students, faculty, and staff can search the catalog, request or renew books, read articles, or search databases. This means that information is available around the clock to persons connecting from home or anywhere in the world.

Laptop users who are students, faculty, or staff of WU can plug into the network in some of the libraries or get wireless access in most of the campus libraries.

The Find it! search engine allows users to search up to ten of the Libraries’ databases at once, rather than one at a time, allowing researchers to quickly get information from a variety of sources.

Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) is available across the University. Supported by the Libraries, geospatial technology allows users to represent information visually on computerized maps. Researchers can create maps with several layers of data and explore the relationships among them. See the GIS Research Guide for more information.

WU librarians help users find information and identify the best resources. Each subject librarian has expert knowledge in one or more areas of study. Contact a subject librarian or check with the Help Center (Olin Library, Level 1) if you have questions. Contact library staff via chat, email, phone, in-person, or text message.

Other Services

The Libraries host regular exhibitions and talks focused on library holdings as well as lectures by well-known figures like Marian Wright Edelman, Bill Gass, and Murray Weidenbaum.

Off the Shelf, the Libraries’ semi-annual magazine, launched in spring 2006, provides news on library activities and profiles important donors.

A variety of giving programs allow donors to contribute to the collections or to preservation while paying tribute to friends, family, or other loved ones.