Name: Burling Library
Nickname: Burling
Address: 1111 Sixth Ave.
Purpose: College library
Year Built: 1959; renovated in 1982
Named for: Lucy Burnham Burling of Eldora, Iowa, the mother of Edward A. Burling, a member of the class of 1890.

Burling is the main campus library. Built in 1959, it underwent a major renovation in 1982, during which the top two floors were added. Burling is known for bathroom graffiti (a long tradition that’s officially encouraged by painting bathroom walls flat white) and jungle-gym study structures on the lower floors. During finals week, Burling has a number of study breaks, including cookies and milk, daily at 9 p.m.; librarians reading their favorite picture books; and performances by campus musical groups. Librarians and archivists work closely with students to conduct research. Students can schedule individualized research assistance (library labs) and drop-in reference assistance with library faculty or with student library research assistants.

Building Features

Student Study Spaces: There are more than 470 student spaces, with access to PC and Mac networked computers, in the four-story building.

Jungle Gyms and Amoeba Tables: The study environment becomes quieter as one goes higher in the building. Amoeba tables are on the first floor and are great for study groups or more sociable studying. Jungle gyms are also a popular study location on the first floor and are at the back of the building near the windows. Burling Four, or the “panic button,” is used for emergency paper-writing sessions where complete silence and seclusion are not only necessary, but imperative.

Burling Media Room: This room on the lower level houses a collection of nearly 7,000 documentary and feature films in DVD, VHS, and Blu-ray formats, as well as a collection of more than 22,000 audio recordings, primarily in compact disc format. The facilities offer eight viewing stations with high-definition monitors for individual use or for small groups of up to six and two listening stations connected to a variety of playback equipment — from turntables to a reel-to-reel audiotape player. Highlights of the collection include all Disney movies as well as all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Iowa Room: The Iowa Room is home to the College archives. These document the history of Grinnell College. The collection includes Board of Trustees minutes, presidential papers, documentary photographs, and publications of the College and by College faculty and alumni. Stepping into the Iowa Room is like stepping back in time; the warm wood tables and high-backed chairs, old-fashioned green desk lamps, and old maps of Iowa lining the walls recall a bygone but not forgotten era.


  • Reference Desk
  • Media Room
  • Interlibrary Loan Service
  • Interactive Instructional Facility
  • Print and Drawing Study Room
  • Iowa Room and College Archives

Fun Fact

Campus rumor has it that Burling is sinking. It is, in fact, not.

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Burling Interactive Tour

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