About Undergraduate Library Services

Welcome to Columbia and especially to the Libraries! Columbia University Libraries (CUL) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials.The services and collections are organized into 17 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. The libraries support the instructional and research information needs of the University.

Butler Library is the largest of the 17 libraries at Columbia and its affiliated institutions, and the one most heavily used by first-year students, especially those in Columbia College and SEAS.  Undergraduates may use any library on campus and also the libraries of Columbia's affiliated institutions, Barnard College and Teachers College.

The Philip L. Milstein Family College Library

The interdisciplinary undergraduate collection is housed in the Philip L. Milstein Family College Library in Butler Library. The collection is shelved in the 24/7 reading rooms on the second, third, and fourth floors. With approximately 50,000 volumes, the collection is especially strong in history, literature, and the social sciences supporting the undergrduate curricula in Columbia College, General Studies, and to a limited extent, SEAS.

Undergraduate students may check out Milstein books for semester loan. Books may be checked out from the Circulation Desk (3rd floor) or at another circulation desk through the Libraries' pick-up service. In Butler, users can also check out material through the Libraries' self-checkout service.

Butler Reserves Collection

Located at the Circulation Desk on the third level, Butler Reserves is a collection of books and articles selected by faculty to support their current course teaching. Butler Reserves covers most undergraduate classes, as well as graduate classes in history and humanities. For example, reserve readings for courses in the Core Curriculum (e.g., Contemporary Civilization, Literature Humanities) are available in Butler Reserves.

Reserve materials usually circulate for two hours (or overnight after 6 p.m.) Use the Course Reserves link in the CLIO Catalog sidebar or the Library Reserves tab in CourseWorks to find reserves readings for your classes.


The Columbia University FLI (First-Generation, Low-Income) Partnership Lending Library provides course materials and extending borrowing privileges for undergraduate students who self-identify as FGLI. The collection is especially strong in material for the Core Curriculum. Students may register through the Access Form for extended borrowing privileges.

24-Hour Reading Rooms

The Milstein Library within Butler Library provides 24-hour study areas during the fall and spring semesters. These reading rooms also provide power/data connections for laptop users and wireless access. A valid CUID is required to enter the library.

Butler Library Research Services

The Butler Reference Desk in room 307 is the place to go for face-to-face assistance in finding answers to course-related research or general questions and for help in using print and electronic resources in CLIO and Library databases. The Reference Rooms, Butler 301 and 310, have biographies, bibliographies, indexes, encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, gazetteers and other reference works in hundreds of languages.

Other Library Services

Other library services and collections will become familiar as you go through the academic year, including:

We invite you to explore the library resources available to you.  There are staff members at service desks throughout the libraries to assist you and provide you with more information.

Orientation & Library Instruction

Orientation help desks and tours are offered by many of the libraries in the beginning of the fall semester to help new students learn their way around. The new student orientation program (NSOP) includes a library welcome event. Later in the school year, undergraduates enrolled in University Writing complete a library assignment that includes instruction in library research skills. The Libraries offer a variety of instructional workshops throughout the year on using specialized software and other resources for research. 

We look forward to supporting your scholarship, and helping you to make the most of the libraries' services and collections.