History of Kroch Library

One of the most distinctive buildings on the Cornell campus, the Carl A. Kroch Library is a unique architectural achievement. Designed by Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott and located completely underground, the Kroch Library opened in 1992 to provide a new home for the university's renowned Asia Collections and Rare and Manuscript Collections.

Main hallway with arches

Widely regarded by students, faculty, staff and alumni as one of Cornell's most beautiful facilities, the Kroch Library epitomizes the university's commitments to preserve open space on campus and to provide facilities that both serve and enhance research and teaching programs. Outside on the Arts Quad, most passersby take scant notice of the four low skylights in the landscaped courtyard between Stimson and Goldwin Smith Halls - the only structural evidence of a building below. Mirrors in the skylights reflect and diffuse outdoor light throughout the three-story atrium that is the centerpiece of the building. Even on cloudy days the space fifty feet below is remarkably bright and airy. Behind the scenes, state-of-the-art environmental control and security systems are in place throughout the library to protect and preserve the collections.

Within its 97,000 square feet, the Kroch Library has more than thirty miles of shelving and room for approximately 1.3 million volumes and 20,000 cubic feet of manuscript material. All three levels provide space for people as well as collections; comfortable study areas for patrons and offices for staff members are clustered around the atrium.

Severinghaus Reading RoomThe top and middle floors house the Cornell Library's Asia Collections - the John M. Echols Collection on Southeast Asia, the Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia, and the South Asia Collection. Cornell is widely regarded as having one of the largest and most significant collections of Asian historical and literary materials in North America. Also located on the top floor is the Severinghaus Asia Reading Room, a gift from the Henry Luce Foundation honoring Leslie R. Severinghaus '21. Here students, faculty, and visitors can peruse thousands of reference sources, a selection of more than 100 leading newspapers from twenty Asian countries, the latest issues of nearly 400 research and popular journals, and an extensive collection of videos from throughout Asia.

The library’s Rare and Manuscript Collections, including Cornell’s own archives are housed in a secure, climate-controlled vault on the lower level of the Kroch Library. On the same floor is a special reading room where patrons have the opportunity to read, study - and, yet, touch rare books, ancient manuscripts, antiquarian maps, prints, and photographs.

Few libraries in the country offer such ease of access to their special collections as the Kroch Library at Cornell. The book stacks of the Asia Collections are open to members of the university community and visitors alike without restriction. And to facilitate research, all Asian material is integrated by subject matter; books in Arabic, Chinese, English, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Sanskrit, and many other languages are interfiled on the shelves. Adjacent to the Rare and Manuscripts Collection are a classroom, a lecture hall and public exhibition gallery - all designed to enhance access to the collections while maintaining the security precautions and preservation standards necessary for such valuable resources. Kroch Library staffs are dedicated to making all the collection available to the Cornell community and to the public through active teaching and exhibition programs and they work closely with faculty to create opportunities for students, especially undergraduates, to learn from original research materials. Classes and special seminars are held regularly in the classroom and lecture hall, and several new exhibitions highlight treasures and the collections each year.

Reading room interior

In July of 2006, thanks to the generous support of the Cho family, the Asia Collections opened the Il Hwan Cho and Soonja Cho Seminar Room for Asian Thought, Culture, and Religion. This is a reading room for graduate students in the Asia programs, which will also serve as a seminar room for classes that rely on close proximity to the Asia Collections. The room houses selected core reference works for research on Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.

The Carl A. Kroch Library is one of the nineteen libraries that constitute of the Cornell University Library. With a total of more than seven million volumes in its collections, the Cornell University Library is one of the eleven largest academic research libraries in the United States.