Skip to main content
COVID-19 Update: The Library building is closed; limited access to physical material.

About the Library: Mission & History

Library Mission Statement

The Brooklyn College Library & Academic IT unit advances knowledge, stimulates creativity and intellectual inquiry, supports education, fosters research partnerships, and engages diverse communities. We provide access to resources and support for their exploration, within facilities that support user needs. We encourage innovation and provide a unified, integrated support structure for teaching, learning, and research.

History of the Library

Brooklyn College’s original Library, LaGuardia Hall, was constructed in 1937, and anchors the east end of the campus.  In 1959, a large addition was built, increasing the Library’s space for its services and collections to 153,000 feet.  Then in Fall 1998, construction began on a major capital improvement project for the renovation of the existing library.  The new library, reopened in the Fall of 2002, encompasses nearly 280,000 square feet of space.  Seating was expanded from 600 seats to 2,317 seats, with a mixture of large study tables, comfortable armchairs arranged in study groups, carrels, and computer pods.  Stack areas grew from 5,248 shelf units to 6,700 shelf units.  

By 2009, wireless technology was functional in virtually all areas of the library.  As well, in neighboring Whitehead Hall, the Morton and Angela Topfer Library Café provide access to state of the art technology in a casual setting; it is the only 24/7 computing facility within CUNY.  Originally based on the concept of a downtown internet cafe, the Library Café has grown into a full service computing facility, with more than 80 workstations, all with internet access and a legion of software applications.  The Library is committed to ongoing exploration of the use of advanced technology in library applications, and to supporting academic technology across the College. 

In fact, the College’s academic computing program, known as Academic Information Technology or AIT, is part of the Library.  Professional staff support faculty in their efforts to integrate technology into their teaching and research.  This support can take many forms.  AIT staff members work with faculty to build and manage courses in Blackboard and Sakai, up to and including the creation of entire online programs.  They assist faculty with the creation of individual and departmental websites.  They have developed suites of software applications that allow staff to manage websites, oversee the computer lab facilities, handle inventory, book rooms, and more; these software applications have been widely shared with other CUNY colleges.  AIT staff also support and manage multimedia classrooms and a Faculty Development and Training Lab, where faculty can drop in anytime to obtain assistance, scan documents, check email, work on their online courses, print posters and conference materials, or learn a new software program.  AIT staff also manages the Library’s Woody Tanger Auditorium, with its technologically advanced conference and presentation facilities, and the New Media Center, which includes hundreds of computer workstations, language lab services, and group viewing and listening rooms.  Two of the viewing rooms were renovated in 2009-10, and now students can view movies in HD and Blu-Ray formats, while basking in surround sound. 

The Library also boasts excellent collections, supporting undergraduate and master’s level study in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  The collections total nearly 1.5 million volumes, as well as significant audiovisual and microform holdings.   Periodical resources include approximately 45,000 titles; nearly 43,000 of these are in electronic format, and accessible 24/7.  Also available 24/7 is the Library’s chat reference service; Brooklyn College Library’s participation in the Question Point academic library consortium allows it to provide its users with support and service at all times. 

The Library has also expanded its overall service hours; in 2010, the main Library will be open 101 hours per week, complementing the 24/7 services of the Library Café.  The Library also has an active instruction program, providing in-person and online training in the use of information resources in all formats for freshman English classes, and advanced subject lectures for upper-division and graduate courses.  The collaborative building and shaping of resources by library faculty and classroom faculty is a tradition at the College … one that has contributed to the significance of the collections, which are widely acknowledged to be among the best in the City University system. 

The Library serves as a hub of technology, information resources, and information and technology services for Brooklyn College, and upholds its mission of providing integrated information support for the College’s instructional and research activities. 

In 2010, the Middle States accreditation team stated that: 

"Brooklyn College is in a leadership position within City University of New York (CUNY) in both academic computing and information systems technology…. The Library facility, recently renovated, is efficient and inviting, with above average coverage of the disciplines; individual collection development policies for each discipline highlight disciplinary collection development differences."

Collecting Strengths

  • English and American literature
  • French literature
  • U.S. politics and government
  • American and European history
  • Special education
  • American music
  • Art (painting)
  • Women's studies
  • African-American studies
  • Ethiopian, Somalian, and African history
  • Judaic studies
  • Chemistry (inorganic)
  • Biology (microbiology; cytology)
  • Physics (nuclear)
  • Archival holdings in Brooklyn studies, urban studies, and politics

Not only do print and electronic formats support the College's celebrated core curriculum and other undergraduate and graduate programs, but the Library also holds important special collections, among these the Brooklyniana Collection, the Manuscripts Collection (including materials of Oscar Handlin and Sam Levenson), the Robert L. Hess Collection on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, the College Archives and the College Oral History Archives.

The Library acknowledges its responsibility to meet faculty and student information needs, wherever the materials they want actually reside; using traditional interlending and commercial document suppliers, the Research Services unit provides rapid, efficient access to remotely held materials.

The Library participates in cooperative activities and arrangements with other libraries in the Borough of Brooklyn (Academic Libraries of Brooklyn), in the metropolitan area (Metropolitan Reference and Research Agency-METRO), within the State of New York, and nationally (Online Computer Library Center-OCLC). The Brooklyn College Library is represented on the Council of Chief Librarians of the City University of New York. This body works closely to promote the development of system-wide library projects benefiting all CUNY libraries.