The University Library holds more than thirteen million volumes and 24 million items and
materials in all formats, languages, and subjects, including 9 million microforms, 120,000 serials,
148,000 audio-recordings, over 930,000 audiovisual materials, over 280,000 electronic books, 12,000
films, and 650,000 maps. These collections form the bulk of
the statewide library online catalog. Currently there are 76 I-Share libraries and more than 30
million library items represented in the I-Share catalog. Users at these I-Share libraries may
borrow books directly from the 76 I-Share library participants.
The Library is also world-famous for its outstanding collection of emblem books and incunabula;
and collections, including personal papers, of John Milton,
Marcel Proust, H.G. Wells, Carl Sandburg, and
Avery Brundage of the international Olympic movement.
The goal of the University Library is to become the nation's leading institution in terms of
physical and electronic access to its collections. The Library is already well-known for allowing
anyone--not just the university community--to use its collection on-site. Now patrons from around
the world visit the library website to access our online resources, averaging nearly half a million
hits per week. The Library's worldwide patrons also know that if they call the Library with a
reference question, they will receive the same outstanding professional help that on-site users
The University Library now has embarked on a new mission to remove the barriers of time and
place from access to Library materials. In conjunction with the university's
National Center for Supercomputing Applications,
Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and its
Grainger Engineering Library Information Center
as the test-bed laboratory, the Library is actively working on advanced, networked, multimedia
information systems. It will be introducing sophisticated new bibliographic software and
navigational tools that will make using our catalogs as easy as 'point-and-click.' Users anywhere
in the world already can access the Library's online catalog and many of its databases via the
Internet through the World Wide Web. As new software tools emerge from the Library's cooperative
efforts, this kind of 24-hour access will be enhanced to include full-text retrieval and
integration of illustrations and sound with text.
Undergraduate Library, with over 200,000 volumes,
provides in one location more reference resources for undergraduate instruction than any other
undergraduate college library in the United States. The Undergraduate Library is also known
nationally for its array of award-winning programs designed to teach students to become
sophisticated users of the latest information technologies. These courses are integrated into a
student's regular classroom instruction so that virtually every student is assured of exposure to
bibliographic instruction. Many of the Library's other departmental libraries also conduct
bibliographic instruction programs tailored to the specific needs of individual courses.
The Undergraduate Library also offers other important services, such as course reserves, and
Office Hours where students can drop in to get assistance with research and writing from librarians
and consultants from the
Writer’s Workshop. Campus partners,
including the Career Center (offering resume and cover letter critiques), Division of General
Studies Advising, and Study Abroad also provide regularly scheduled hours at the Connections
Desk. As a further service to undergraduates, the Undergraduate Library and the Grainger
Engineering Library Information Center both have campus-supported multimedia computer laboratories,
with more than 20 workstations each.
The University Library is founded in 1867 in the charter establishing the school that became
University of Illinois. The Library, in fact, pre-dated
the University. The first Library purchases at Illinois (an initial $1,000 investment in
Library materials) were approved at a meeting of the Trustees of the “Illinois Industrial
University” on November 26, 1867, a measure meant to ensure that a core collection of “
indispensable books” would be available to the faculty and students from the day they arrived on
The Library opens with the school in 1868 with 1,039 volumes and grows slowly over the next few
University President Edmund J. James, in a speech to the Board of Trustees in 1912, proposes to
create a research library on a par with those at the great German academic institutions. He states
that the Library should accumulate "...at least a million of books as rapidly as possible..." and
that the state "...spend a million dollars to build a new building to house the collection."
The Library moves into its new building (the current main library building) in 1926. Under the
inspiration of library dean Phineas L. Windsor, the building is designed to accommodate constant
growth and influences the architecture of academic library buildings for decades.
President David Kinley dedicates the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library
Building (now commonly referred to as the "Main Library") on October 19, 1929. James M. White
is the supervising architect of the Library Building.
The one-millionth volume is acquired in 1935. During this period of intense acquisition, the
Library amasses the beginnings of its extremely strong collections in
history, Milton, and Shakespeare. By 1940, the
Library is the fifth-largest in the country.
Robert B. Downs becomes library dean in 1943. By the end of his tenure in 1971, he has acquired
120 of the Library's 177 special research collections, and the Library has become the third-largest
in the nation. Among the most notable acquisitions are collections dealing with H.G. Wells,
Marcel Proust, Carl Sandburg, Shakespeare,
Elizabethan and early English literature, near eastern history, and freedom of expression.
Hugh C. Atkinson arrives as university librarian in 1976. Facing a filing backlog of nearly a
million catalog cards, Atkinson steers the Library into the world of automation. By 1978, the
Library becomes the first major research library in the country to have an online catalog. Atkinson
also fulfills his vision of a statewide, computer-linked library network. The network included more
than 2,400 libraries of all types, from public and grade-school to corporate and university, and
was the most extensive in the country at its peak in the 1980s.
In 1992, the Library begins to create networked databases, including multimedia databases, that
will become accessible both locally and internationally via the Internet. By 1994 more than a
million users weekly log on to the Library's online catalog.
Grainger Engineering Library Information Center
opens in March 1994. The facility is designed to accommodate the latest in both library and user
technologies and includes facilities for digital scanning, multimedia database creation, and
on-site testing of new library-related software.
Isaac Funk Family Library (also known as
the Funk Library) was dedicated in 2001. This library serves the College of Agricultural,
Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the Landscape Architecture Department, the Urban and Regional
Planning Department, and the Life Sciences in general. The state-of-the-art facility offers
online resources, public computers, compact stacks, study carrels, and group study rooms.