The Burke Library is one of the largest theological libraries in North America. With holdings of over 700,000 items, including extensive holdings of unique and special materials, the Library is recognized as one of the premier resources in its field. Throughout its long history, the Library has maintained its commitment to the needs of both teaching and research, serving not only the faculty, staff and students of Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, but also a wide spectrum of national and international scholars and researchers. The Library is named in honor of Walter Burke, a generous benefactor to the Library who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Seminary from 1976 to 1982.

The mission of the Burke Library is to identify, acquire, organize, provide access to, interpret, and preserve for the future information in the field of theology and contextually related areas of study. 

For more detailed information, please see the Burke Library Collection Development Policy.

A. Purpose and Program Description

The Burke Library supports research and teaching in the areas of biblical studies, church history, Christian theology and ethics, practical theology, and related areas of the humanities. It supports undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. students, as well as the faculty and staff of Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, and affiliate institutions.

The Library reflects in its collections the pluralistic and ecumenical concerns of Union Theological Seminary while maintaining its role as a comprehensive resource within the limits of its collecting policies. 

B. General Selection Guidelines (see classed analysis for detailed statement)

Overall, the Burke Library's existing collections, its collecting goals, and its current acquisitions commitment for these areas, based upon available resources, are all at the research level.

C. Specific Delimitations

1. Formats Collected: We collect monographs, periodicals, annuals, reference resources, and electronic resources (both reference and primary) extensively. We collect professional materials and dissertations selectively.

2. Imprint Dates Collected: We collect materials from the 19th century to the present, with a particular focus on 20th and 21st century Christianities.

3. Languages Collected:  We collect English, German, French, and Italian language materials. Other languages are collected selectively.

4. Place of Publication: We collect materials from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

D. Areas of Strength and Distinction

· The Missionary Research Collection: Tens of thousands of books, pamphlets, periodicals, reports, minutes, and archival materials originally collected by a group of American Protestant mission boards and now continued by the Burke Library. There are particularly extensive archival holdings in this area.

· The Van Ess Collection: Approximately 13,000 pieces, which formed the core of the Library's original collection, consisting of manuscripts and early printed books, including many incunabula.

· The McAlpin Collection of British History and Theology: An eminent collection of some 18,000 sixteenth and seventeenth century imprints, sources critical to an understanding of the political, theological, and ecclesiastical climate of this important period.

· The Gillett Collection of American History and Theology: A large body of original pamphlets, tracts, sermons, general and local histories, biographies from the period ca. 1750-1850.

· The Thompson Collection: Rich in Bibles and prayer books, the collection is particularly valuable for the study of bindings and illustrations in early printed books.