Washington University Libraries

Washington University Libraries is the library system of Washington University in St. Louis. The Washington University Libraries are a powerful network of academic resources featuring 9 University Libraries (7 locations on the Danforth Campus, one on the West Campus, and one at the Medical School); vast print and electronic collections; and expert librarians whose priority is helping students and faculty find the information they need.[1] The John M. Olin Library is the central library.

John M. Olin Library, Washington University in St. Louis
John M. Olin Library
38°38′55″N 90°18′28″W / 38.6486°N 90.3078°W / 38.6486; -90.3078
Size5.5 million volumes
Other information
DirectorMimi Calter

Olin Library


Centrally located on the Danforth Campus, just west of the Brookings Quadrangle, Olin Library houses general–interest materials and collections in the humanities, social sciences, biology, mathematics and engineering. It is also a designated federal depository library and houses over 70,000 microfilms.

Olin Library also houses the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections, which includes the literary papers of James Merrill, Samuel Beckett, Howard Nemerov, Stanley Elkin, William Gass, Mona Van Duyn, and many other important writers. Special Collections focuses on six primary areas: the Dowd Illustration Research Archive, Film & Media Archive, Local History, Manuscripts, Rare Books, and the University Archives. The Washington University Film & Media Archive within Special Collections includes material created by alumnus Henry Hampton documenting the Civil Rights Movement.[2]

Built in the early 1960s after a gift from John M. Olin and opened in 1962, the John M. Olin Library replaced the University's former main library at Ridgley Hall.[3] In 2004, the Olin Library was rededicated after a comprehensive renovation and an expansion of the main floor. This process took more than three years. The library contains a cafe/coffee shop, study spaces for graduate and undergraduate students, and many general services and administrative offices of the Washington University Libraries.

The Washington University Libraries closed three Danforth Campus locations in 2021: the Chemistry Library, Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Physics Library, and Ronald Rettner Earth & Planetary Science Library. Most of the physical collections for these three spaces moved to the John M. Olin Library.

Washington University Film & Media Archive


The Washington University Film & Media Archive is an archive composed of completed films and videos, most notably Eyes on the Prize the definitive documentary on America's civil rights movement. The archive also holds numerous materials that went into the creation of other works. The Archive collects photos, interviews, stock footage, producer's research notes, correspondence, treatments, and scripts, all of which provide a distinctive look at the film making at storytelling process for scholars, teachers, filmmakers, and students.

Opened in the Fall of 2002, the Film & Media Archive's first acquisition was the Henry Hampton Collection, an archive of the work of one of the most influential African–American filmmakers. For the first time ever, the tens of thousands of materials created by his company Blackside, Inc. during the production process became available for study.

The Archive has expanded from its inaugural collection to include the collection of filmmaker Bill Miles, the St. Louis Public School's educational films, and material from Insignia Films' Reporting America at War series. It continues to grow, focusing on collecting film archives that examine the great social movements of American history and African–American life and culture, and supporting documentary studies. In addition to acquiring collections of major historical importance, the Archive preserves and organizes these materials, publicizes them, and creates related educational and outreach programs.

Documenting Ferguson


Following the shooting of Michael Brown, Washington University Libraries implemented a crowd–sourced digital repository to collected ephemeral documentation of the Ferguson unrest called "Documenting Ferguson". The collection accepts submissions of written testimony, images, and video related to the protests.[4]

Bernard Becker Medical Library


Located on the Washington University School of Medicine campus, Becker Library serves the Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes–Jewish Hospital, and St. Louis Children's Hospital. The mission of the Becker Medical Library is to provide information resources and technology in support of the educational, research and patient care objectives of the School of Medicine. The library contains over 146,000 volumes, along with over 9,100 print and electronic journal titles.[5]

Becker Medical Library is organized into several departments which play unique roles in serving the Washington University School of Medicine community, including: Archives and Rare Books, Collection Management Services, Health Information Resources (Reference), and Translational Research Support.[6]



Shirley K. Baker served as dean of Washington University Libraries from 1989 until her retirement on June 30, 2012. Her replacement, Jeffrey Trzeciak, served from July 1, 2012 until July 21, 2016. After being led on an interim basis by Marion G. Crain, a Vice Provost and Professor of Law at Washington University, Denise Stephens took over as University Librarian and Vice Provost on June 15, 2017, until May 14, 2021.

Associate University Librarian Leland Deeds led the University Libraries on an interim appointment until Deputy University Librarian at Stanford University Mimi Calter took over as University Librarian and Vice Provost on September 20, 2021.[7]

Specialty libraries



  1. ^ WashU Libraries: Library Facts
  2. ^ WashU Libraries: Special Collections
  3. ^ WashU Libraries: About
  4. ^ Arnold, Willis Ryder (2015-12-15). "Challenges Face Project Documenting Protests in Ferguson". news.stlpublicradio.org. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  5. ^ Bernard Becker Medical Library Facts About the Library
  6. ^ Becker Library Departments and Staff
  7. ^ Keaggy, Diane Toroian (2021-06-24). "Calter appointed vice provost and university librarian - The Source - Washington University in St. Louis". The Source. Retrieved 2024-02-07.