The Grinnell College Libraries' collections are housed in Burling Library, the Kistle Science Library in the Noyce Science Center, and online. The Libraries' primary purpose is to support the research and study needs of Grinnell College students working within the College's liberal arts curriculum. We also support the basic research needs of the faculty. Our collections contain material in many languages and formats, traditional and electronic. We work cooperatively and collaboratively with other libraries and library networks to complement local collections with resources from around the world and to share responsibility for long-term preservation of the scholarly and cultural record. The Libraries’ collections are supported by generous monetary gifts through Development and Alumni Relations.
Guidelines for the acceptance of gifts of library materials are outlined in the Gift Acceptance Policy.
Library collections of special note include:
Digital Grinnell contributes to “free inquiry and the open exchange of ideas” through the preservation and publication of scholarship created by Grinnell College students, faculty, and staff, as well as selected material that illuminates the College’s history and other activities.
Black Library (Burling Library)
The Black Library was established in 1972 at the request of Concerned Black Students for a separate collection of books and other materials relating to Black culture. African-American periodicals, as well as many books by and about African-Americans, are located in an alcove on the south side of the second floor of Burling Library. Among the many interesting materials to be found in this alcove is the collection of slave narratives entitled The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography. This is a forty-two volume series collected and transcribed by members of the Federal Writers Project during the Great Depression. (Black Library E444 .A45 and E441 .A58). The Black Library is a selection of materials from the general library collection. It contains novels and poetry by African-American authors, documents, statistics, biographies, and other research material related to the study of African Americans in all aspects of African-American culture and history. The periodical collection and some portions of the monograph collection are permanently housed in the Black Library, while other materials cycle back into the larger collection in Burling Library after a period of time. All material shelved in the Black Library will be identified in the online catalog.
Current and Popular Reading Collection (Burling Library)
Located on the first floor of Burling, this collection features current fiction and nonfiction primarily in English but by authors from around the world. New titles are added to the collection on a regular basis. About once a year, a portion of the collection retires and is shelved in the appropriate call number area of Burling stacks. This collection is complemented by a collection of popular and general-interest magazines and newspapers as well as online resources.
Curriculum Library (Burling Library)
The Curriculum Library is a collection for the use of Education Department students and faculty. Text books, audio-visual materials, kits, and other materials similar to those found in school library media centers are placed here for use primarily by students enrolled in education courses, including student teaching. Burling Library also houses education-related journals and monographs including curriculum guides, methods books, research, theory and history, government documents and reference resources. Drake Community Library (930 Park Street), Grinnell's public library, has a large collection of juvenile literature, fiction and nonfiction.
East Asian Collection (Burling Library)
In 1989, the college received a generous gift by the Tsang family of Hong Kong of 1,000 volumes in Chinese, featuring encyclopedias, dictionaries, classical works, and dynastic histories. This gift, which forms the nucleus and bulk of the East Asian Collection, has been followed by additional gifts and purchases, including works in Korean and Japanese.
Government Documents (Burling Library)
United States Federal Government Documents
The Grinnell College Libraries have been a selective depository for United States federal government documents since 1874. Our mission, as part of the Federal Depository Library Program, is to provide access to federal government information for the faculty, staff, and students of Grinnell College and for the residents of Iowa's first Congressional district. Our 36% selection rate provides for most of the government document needs of our patrons. In addition to the core collection prescribed by the federal government, areas of focus for collection development include agriculture, economics, education, energy, the environment, international relations, labor, and social issues. Our regional depository, located at University of Iowa in Iowa City, offers a full collection of federal documents. Most new federal government documents are now made available via the Internet, and links to new online federal documents are added to the library catalog frequently.
State of Iowa Documents
The Grinnell College Libraries are a depository for documents issued by the State of Iowa. Most documents issued by the State of Iowa are available online at Iowa Publications Online (IPO). All State of Iowa paper and microfiche documents that we receive can be identified by searching the library catalog.
The Grinnell College Libraries purchase documents from many international government organizations (especially the United Nations, OECD, European Union, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) and some individual countries. All international documents that we receive can be identified by searching the library catalog.
Latino Collection (Burling Library)
Originating with a request from the Latino and Latina student organization, SOL, the Latino Collection was dedicated and officially opened on February 14, 2000. With this collection, the library highlights newly acquired books by Latin American and Latino/a authors and those covering any aspect of Latino/a culture, whether North or South American, Central American, or Caribbean. All books eventually move from the Latino Collection into the general stacks.
Media Collections (Burling Library)
The Burling Media Room houses nearly 7000 documentary and feature films in DVD, VHS, and Blu-ray formats as well as a collection of over 22,000 audio recordings primarily in compact disc format. The facilities offer viewing stations with high-definition monitors for individual use or for small groups of up to six persons.
Science Library (Noyce Science Center)
Constructed in 2007, the Kistle Science Library serves the entire campus and contains books, journals, and other materials pertaining to the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics, Physics, Psychology, and their associated majors and concentrations. The Library is 10,553 square feet and is located on the second floor, north side of the Noyce Science Center (1116 8th Avenue). It is named after Helen Pierce Kistle who graduated from the College in 1938. Helen Pierce Kistle expressed a life-long passion for education and, in particular, literacy. She was active in her local library, serving as a board member and volunteer.
Special Collections and Archives (Burling Library)
Special Collections and Archives collects, preserves, and makes available for research rare and unique materials. We have a good teaching collection of books that document the history of print culture from the birth of movable type in the 1470s to the present day. We also have a strong focus on materials that document the history of Grinnell College, the surrounding community, and its cultural and natural environment in Iowa, including its prairie setting. From a Kelmscott edition of Chaucer to a first edition of the Book of Mormon to James Norman Hall's papers, Special Collections offers an outstanding array of rare and unique materials for researchers and scholars. Special Collections also houses The Salisbury House Library Collection, which came to Grinnell College in 2019. From the historic Salisbury House estate of Des Moines, Iowa, the collection was built by Carl and Edith Weeks primarily between the 1920s and 1960s. The Salisbury House Library Collection totals nearly 5,000 rare books and manuscripts dating from the 12th century to mid-1960s.
Books, manuscripts, maps, audio-visual materials, photographs, and ephemera are housed in a secure, climate-controlled environment which preserves the collections for future generations. Special Collections are non-circulating, closed-stack collections, and patrons are encouraged to consult with staff for help finding and using materials.
Resources beyond Grinnell's collections
For more specialized and in-depth research projects, expand your research beyond Grinnell's collections:
- WorldCat: a catalog of academic and public libraries around the world. Books found on WorldCat can be requested through Interlibrary Services.
- Center for Research Libraries: an international consortium of universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. The consortium acquires and preserves traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions for extended loan periods through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery. The Center responds quickly to interlibrary loan requests with most requests arriving within a week. CRL is an especially good place to look for primary source materials, newspapers, and magazines. Search their catalog, browse topic guides to find uncataloged materials, or ask a librarian for help. Request material through Interlibrary Services.
- Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology: Through its membership in CRL, the Grinnell community has no-cost access to current and back issues of over 50,000 print journal titles held by Linda Hall, which will be made available electronically through 24-hour turnaround via ILL. Request articles you need through Interlibrary Services.
- Other Iowa Libraries: Grinnell College students, faculty, and staff may have borrowing privileges at these Iowa Libraries. Consult their Web sites for details: