Cornell University Library's collections encompass a rich and varied universe of printed volumes, digital resources, maps, media and archival materials. The Library holds over 8 million volumes and over a million ebooks. With close to 5 million journal article downloads per year and 91 percent of the 120,000 current serial titles available online, the Library's digital collection continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Subject Strengths

The Library has long been known for its nationally prominent collections in Southeast Asia studies, industrial relations, viticulture and Old Norse and Icelandic materials, as well as for solid research-level collections in agriculture, astronomy, chemistry, classics, French history and literature, human development, mathematics, medieval studies, microbiology, North European language and literature, physics and western European social sciences. The Library’s material and digital collections are administered by a large staff of expert subject librarians.

CUL Collection Development Principles

Timely access to research and learning content for the Cornell community is the Library’s first priority in the scholarly resources arena. It is a prerequisite for continuing to develop Cornell’s academic distinction, educational verve and community engagement. Since Collection Development continues to be an important tool for the Library to achieve this priority, the following principles have been drafted to inform collection development policy and practice:

  • The Cornell University Library (CUL) collections are developed for use by the Cornell community today and in the future.
  • Collection development at CUL also supports collection preservation, and the availability of content beyond the Cornell community.
  • Collection development at CUL benefits from coordination of effort with other research and learning institutions.
  • Collection development at CUL seeks to make the best possible use of limited financial resources and takes into account all the costs of ownership and access (including acquisition, processing, storage, preservation).
  • The success of collection development at CUL is measured by regular quantitative and qualitative assessment.
  • Attentive to the multiple intersecting ways that the library collection reflects societal histories of bias, exclusion, and oppression, collection development at CUL seeks to redress omissions and to advance research and teaching that critically examines unjust structures, contributing to their dismantlement.
  • CUL’s collection development principles are reviewed regularly to align with changing university priorities.

Digital Collections

A leader in digital library research and development since the early 1990’s, CUL is building collections with local and global partners as well as licensing access to a rapidly expanding collection of electronic resources in all fields of scholarship. We have extensive holdings of electronic journals, books, primary texts of various kinds, digital images of fine artworks from around the globe, statistical data files and hundreds of indexes, abstracts and search tools.

Rare Book & Manuscript Collections

Cornell University’s rare book and manuscript collections date from the founding of the University in 1865. Andrew Dickson White, Cornell's co-founder and first president, was a life-long book collector who believed that deep collections of primary resources are central to scholarship and teaching. These founding ideas continue to guide Cornell's collection building policies to this day. Collections of rare materials are primarily found in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in Carl A. Kroch Library, but several other campus libraries — including Catherwood, Law, and Mann — maintain rare materials, as well.


Library exhibitions, both online and in person, help nourish and inspire intellectual curiosity and creativity at Cornell. Learn more about our Online Exhibitions and see individual libraries to find physical exhibitions.


To meet the research and teaching needs of the Cornell community across the disciplines, the Library’s collections budget pays for access to a vast range of resources – text, images, data, and more in various electronic and physical formats. The collections budget, which totals around $18 million annually, is comprised of an appropriation from the University, restricted and unrestricted endowment funds, and gifts to the Library. Read our Funding FAQ.


Unrestricted gifts, no matter what the amount, help support every facet of Cornell University Library operations — from enriching our holdings and expanding our resources, to preserving our collections, to improving our services with advanced technology. Find out more about Giving Opportunities.