10 Tiny Colleges With Truly Impressive Libraries

While the libraries of big universities like Harvard and Yale grab a lot of the glory for being among the best in the nation, there are many other smaller colleges that have great libraries too. They may not boast millions of books, but they have have expansive collections, amazing architecture, cutting-edge services, and even some rare books students wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Here are a few of those small libraries we think deserve some recognition.

  1. Middlebury College

    With just 2,500 students, Middlebury is a pretty small college. Yet the Vermont-based school’s library is still pretty impressive. The brand-new facilities showcase views of the surrounding countryside and a mural by California-born artist Matt Mullican called “The Art of Writing” keeps the interior interesting for students. Housed within the impressive setting are some equally impressive resources, including college archives, a number of special collections, government documents, and loads of books, pamphlets, maps, and archives all about Vermont.

  2. Colby-Sawyer College

    Colby-Sawyer’s 1,200 students are the only ones in the nation who can brag that their library is built from two pre-Civil War barns. The Susan Colgate Cleveland library is incredibly unique and has received awards for its innovative use of historic buildings on campus. Of course, it’s not all about architecture at Colby-Sawyer. The library also offers rotating exhibits in the “Haystack” that showcase the history of the school and student experiences there, as well as extensive archives containing letters, books, newspapers, and other records from the local area.

  3. Assumption College

    Assumption College is home to the French Institute, a research center dedicated to the study of French history, culture, and language. That alone isn’t especially unique, but the collections that the institute houses are. Assumption’s 2,500 students can look through books, pamphlets, maps, and artifacts—many found nowhere else—that document France’s presence and influence in early North America. Through donations from scholars and some of the school’s early administrators, the collection has become one of the best on this subject in the U.S. The general collection at the school’s Emmanuel d’Alzon Library has also won acclaim for having an amazingly diverse assortment of resources for such a small library.

  4. Hampden-Sydney College

    This rural Virginia college is tiny, but the library isn’t. Even with only 1,100 students and 130 staff members, its library has amassed an impressive 250,000 volumes. In addition to the circulating books, the college library also houses a number of rare books, college archives, and important Virginia government documents. The school’s library is often named among one of the best (Princeton Review ranked it 7th in the nation) not just for these resources but also for its commitment to creating a state-of-the-art learning experience. There are loads of e-books, group study rooms, laptops for checkout, and a huge collection of electronic equipment, music, software, movies, and videos that students can borrow and use.

  5. Colgate University

    Case Library at Colgate University is a pretty high-tech space for students to use. It offers everything from a digital learning and media center to group study rooms, assets that have helped it to be named the 18th best college library (based on student satisfaction) in the nation. Colgate’s libraries also boast some pretty impressive special collections, including books, manuscripts, and letters from literary greats like George Bernard Shaw, T.S. Eliot, and Mark Twain that surely played a role in earning it high honors.

  6. Burlington College

    Burlington College, a small liberal arts school in Vermont of just 200 students, has a library that stands out because of one former professor and dean at the school: Dr. Frank Manchel. Dr. Manchel is a scholar of film, and helped to curate a collection of more than 6,100 books on film, 500 bound volumes of film journals, and many more manuscripts and movie posters. While not the largest collection of film resources in the U.S., it is impressive nonetheless, and is an amazing asset to any student in the College of Arts interested in film.

  7. Reed College

    This small Portland-area school is home to a library that students can be proud of. The Cooley Gallery, an internationally recognized contemporary art space, is located at the entrance to the library, offering students a learning experience as soon as they enter the door. Reed also boasts an ample rare books collection that includes antiquarian maps, illuminated manuscripts, and even a postcard collection from the early 20th century. The library has made it easy to access many of its amazing resources by digitizing collections, and students can take advantage of online resources that showcase everything from art books to vintage advertisements.

  8. Bryn Mawr College

    While Bryn Mawr may be one of the most prestigious colleges on this list, it’s also one of the smaller ones, with only 1,800 students and about 150 staff members. Both get the opportunity to use one of the most architecturally impressive libraries on a small campus anywhere in the U.S. The M. Carey Thomas Library served as the school’s main library until the 1970s. While today the bulk of the collections have been moved to a new space, students can still take in performances and talks within the confines of this stunning Gothic Revival building. Of course, the newer library isn’t too shabby either. While it lacks the charming architecture of the Thomas Library, it does provide a home for some amazing resources that include everything from high-tech workspaces to medieval manuscripts.

  9. Furman University

    One of the oldest colleges in South Carolina, this school produces more PhDs than any other liberal arts school, perhaps with the help of the James B. Duke Library. Spanning 128,000 square feet, Duke Library is a stately brick building sitting at the head of an expansive green lawn dotted with fountains, adding to the school’s reputation as the “country club of the south.” Of course, the library is more than just good looks. It also houses nearly 600,000 books and countless other periodicals, journals, music, movies, and multimedia items. Standouts from the collection include poetry archives from South Carolina’s best writers and an immense assortment of songbooks and sheet music.

  10. Occidental College

    Located in L.A., this liberal arts school has some pretty impressive alumni, including President Barack Obama and actor Ben Affleck. It also has a great library. The small school has significant collections of rare manuscripts, artists’ books, printing history artifacts, and primary sources on the Japanese-American concentration camps, Abraham Lincoln, aviation, railroads, and so much more. Students can also get personalized research help free of charge, to help them take advantage of these resources. There are peer research advisors in nearly every major, in-depth consultations with professors available, and a wealth of online guides to ensure that students can make the most of all the library resources on hand.