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About the UK Libraries

The University of Kentucky Libraries
May 2009 (ARL Profile)

The University of Kentucky, the flagship public university for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a research-extensive, land-grant university dedicated to improving people’s lives through excellence in teaching, research, health care, cultural enrichment, and economic development.  As the premier research library system in the Commonwealth, UK Libraries provides ever-expanding access to quality information resources, excellent services and programs, and library facilities. As a provider of services and a repository of information resources, UK Libraries plays a key role in the University’s efforts to elevate the quality of life and enhance the intellectual and economic capital in Kentucky. UK aspires to be a top twenty public research university with its Libraries becoming one of the nation’s twenty best public research libraries.

The Libraries

The UK Libraries consists of nine major facilities: William T. Young Library, Agricultural Information Center, Hunter M. Adams College of Design Library, Education Library, Shaver Engineering Library, Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library,  Medical Center Library, Science Library, and Special Collections.


UK Libraries plays an integral role in teaching, research, learning and outreach services. UK Libraries partners with faculty to prepare students for leadership in the knowledge economy and global society. Teaching partnerships between classroom and library faculty advance the information literacy skills of students at all levels through active classroom instruction, online tutorials and course-specific web pages. UK librarians are engaged with the curricular committees who establish discipline-specific templates for a revised general education curriculum. This activity is in concert with a move toward greater classroom and teaching engagement as our primary service initiative. UK librarians are experimenting with new electronic means of providing instruction to users at point of need and in concert with course assignments.

Two instructional programs created by UK librarians have been selected for the peer-reviewed ACRL PRIMO database.  In FY08, UK librarians conducted 744 instructional sessions reaching 7,898 students. Reference services, both traditional in-person transactions and a virtual reference chat service, are provided for the university community and the Commonwealth with over 34,000 questions answered in FY08. The Book Express service delivers books from any library for pick-up at any other library. The Information Commons, the Hub at WT’s, is a focal point for undergraduate students working on group projects involving information technology.

The Medical Center Library has created an extensive clinical medical librarian program that partners with clinical departments (Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics) to provide librarian services such as attending “morning report” and “walking rounds” with the physicians, medical students and other healthcare providers. Continued involvement during the course of a patient’s care allows the librarians to gather “just-in-time information” that helps with clinical decision-making.

UK Libraries provides high quality user-centered services, programs and library spaces that are responsive to changing user needs, and developments in information technology. Since 1990, regular surveys of faculty and students monitor library service quality and enable the Libraries to focus improvement efforts, design new services and target resource selection. Since first participating in the national LibQUAL+ survey in 2001, UK Libraries' scores have improved incrementally, and in 2007, scores ranked above the ARL median for service adequacy.


 Collections and information resources available from the library’s website include a collection of 3,719,548 volumes, 73,251 current serials including 45,450 electronic journals, 406,014 electronic books, 415 commercial databases, 26,780 linear feet of manuscripts and archives, and a broad collection of computer files, microforms, maps, film/video, audio and graphics with total collections expenditures of more than $10.4 million.  In FY08, 2.9 million searches were conducted in licensed databases and 1.7 million full-text articles were downloaded. Use of the Libraries’ print collection remains significant with 262,913 total circulations in FY08.

 The University of Kentucky serves as the Regional Depository as part of the Federal Depository Library Program.  Established as a federal depository in 1907, UK is also a depository for European Union publications and Canadian government publications.  British Parliamentary Papers, Kentucky government publications, and technical reports from federal agencies are selectively collected.

 The Libraries' collections support research and teaching in agricultural sciences, life sciences, chemistry, geological sciences, mathematics, physics, humanities, history, social sciences, economics, communications, information studies, business, fine arts, medicine, nursing, dentistry, health sciences, engineering, computer science, veterinary science (specializing in equine), and law.

 Special Collections is the commonwealth’s largest repository of privately generated primary resource material and rare printed resources.  The extensive manuscripts and rare books are particularly noted for the Kentuckiana and W. Hugh Peal collections.  The former, documenting the commonwealth’s history and culture, contains rare Kentucky imprints and unique primary sources, while the latter is a rich collection of early editions and manuscripts of nineteenth-century British and American authors.  Other notable holdings include the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection (primary and secondary source holdings supporting Appalachian studies) and the Public Policy Archives (the collections of many prominent Kentuckians and organizations involved in public policy). 

 The Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center supports research and programming relating to public policy, politics, and Congress.  The Ford Center also provides digital primary source materials on the Web.  The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History contains more than 8,000 interviews representing more than 100 national or Kentucky-related projects.  The University Archives and Records Program, preserves the institution’s historical record and coordinates the management of the university’s academic and administrative records.  The Audio-Visual Archives houses millions of sound recordings, moving images, and still photographs, including those of the Lexington Herald-Leader from the years 1938 to 1990.

Collaborative Relations

UK Libraries is a member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), ESIG (NSF EPSCoR Science Information Group), Lyrasis library network (created by a merger of SOLINET and PALINET), and the State-Assisted Academic Library Council of Kentucky (SAALCK).  UK Libraries is a member of ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries) and participates in various initiatives, including inter-institutional resource sharing, and the expedited delivery of ILL requested materials via courier services through the Kudzu project.  UK is a founding member of FoKAL, the Federation of Kentucky Academic Libraries. UK Libraries participates in LOCKSS and Portico for the preservation of electronic content.

The Information Alliance between the Libraries of the University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University is a cooperative agreement between the organizations to strengthen library user access to regional information resources, and link information experts formally and informally.

A strong collaborative relationship exists between the UK Libraries and the School of Library and Information Science.  Library faculty members with special expertise teach courses in the School while graduate students in the program gain work experience in a research library through their employment in our campus libraries.   

The Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL) provides a common integrated library system for the public university libraries and some private schools that facilitates the retrieval and delivery of print materials among these libraries. UK Libraries coordinates the integrated library system for the Commonwealth.  KYVL also provides a core collection of digital information resources through cooperative statewide licensing.

The Kentucky Digital Library (KDL) is an online archive of historically significant, rare and unique digitized collections housed in Kentucky archives, built and managed since 1997 by University of Kentucky Libraries with support from the Kentucky Virtual Library and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The KDL ( currently includes over 189,000 photographic images, 575,000 historic Kentucky newspaper pages, 558,000 pages from other printed materials including manuscripts and theses, 730 oral histories, and 4,700 map images documenting the history and heritage of Kentucky. UK Libraries’ Digital Library Services manages the KDL’s systems infrastructure, performs digital conversion of selected historical resources and creates electronic texts, digitized photographs, images and archival finding aids. The KDL was recently selected as a pilot project "service hub" of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The DPLA ( is the first national effort that seeks to aggregate existing records in state and regional digital libraries so that they are searchable from a single portal and available free of charge to all.

UK Libraries is one of the original 6 institutions chosen to participate in the NEH-funded Library of Congress National Digital Newspaper Program, a project to digitize 20 million pages from U.S. newspapers in the public domain. The original phase of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) at UK Libraries focused on establishing best practices for in-house digitization of newspapers with a focus on Kentucky newspapers published between 1900 and 1910. By the end of Phase Three in 2011, date range for all titles will include 1860-1923 and UK Libraries will have targeted for digitization some one million pages of historic Kentucky newspapers.

UK Libraries partnered with the Keeneland Association to preserve, microfilm, digitize and provide access to the Daily Racing Form. This project will produce digital and microfilm versions of the Daily Racing Form and produce a keyword-searchable digital archive. With NEH funding and in partnership with the University Appalachian Center, descriptions for more than 50 Appalachian-related collections have been added to the KDL.

Established in 2003, the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA) is an award-winning Internet resource sponsored by the UK Libraries that provides biographical and historical information concerning African Americans in and from Kentucky. The NKAA covers the early history through the present; entries can be searched by subjects, dates, or keywords. This project received the 2009 RUSA Gale Cengage Learning Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services.