About the UK Libraries

The University of Kentucky Libraries

May 2009, revised July 2013

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 in the commonwealth, UK Libraries provides ever-expanding access to quality information resources, teaching and learning programs and services, and excellent learning spaces. UK Libraries plays an essential role in the University’s goal to elevate the quality of life and enhance the intellectual and economic capital within Kentucky.

UK Libraries

UK Libraries consists of nine major facilities: William T. Young Library, Agricultural Information Center, Hunter M. Adams College of Design Library, Education Library, John A. Morris Equine Library and Information Services, Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library, Medical Center Library, Science and Engineering Library, and the Special Collections Research Center. UK Libraries also manages the Lexmark Library.


UK Libraries is integral to teaching and learning, research, and outreach. UK Libraries collaborates with faculty across the campus to prepare students for leadership in the knowledge economy and a global society. These teaching partnerships advance the information literacy skills of students at all levels through active classroom instruction, online tutorials, and course-specific web pages. This activity is central to UK Libraries’ strategic goal of expanded classroom and teaching engagement. UK librarians experiment and develop new digital formats for providing instruction to users at point of need and in concert with course assignments.

Two instructional programs created by UK librarians were selected for inclusion into the peer-reviewed ACRL PRIMO database.  In FY12, UK librarians conducted 678 instructional sessions reaching 12,673 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 29,825 questions answered in FY12. The Book & Media Express service delivers books and journals from any campus library for pick up at any other library location. The Hub at W.T.’s, is a focal point for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students working on group projects involving information technology.

In addition to providing the information needs for the health sciences colleges, the Medical Center Library also provides support to clinical areas such as Family Practice, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics, UK medical librarians attend “morning report” and “walking rounds” with the physicians, medical students and other healthcare providers. Continuous involvement during the course of a patient’s care allows the librarians to gather “just-in-time information” that assists with clinical decisions.

UK Libraries provides high quality user-centered services, programs and learning spaces that respond to changing user needs as well as rapidly changing information technology. Since 1990, regular surveys of faculty and students monitor library service quality and enable UK Libraries to focus on continuous improvement based on data, , design new services and learning spaces, and align resource allocations for collections to user leaning and research needs. Since first participating in the national LibQUAL+ survey in 2001, UK Libraries scores have consistently improved.  


Collections and information resources available from UK Libraries’ website include 4,023,142 volumes, 588,428 electronic books, well over 400 commercial databases, approximately 27,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives, and a broad collection of computer files, microforms, maps, film/video, audio and graphics.  Annual collections expenditures total more than $11.1 million.  In FY12, 6.6 million searches were conducted in licensed databases and 2.8 million full-text articles were downloaded. Use of UK Libraries’ print collection remains significant with 139,913 circulations in FY12.

UK serves as the Regional Depository for Kentucky 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.

UK Libraries collections support teaching, learning, and research 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, and veterinary science (specializing in equine).

Special Collections is the commonwealth’s largest repository of privately generated primary research materials and rare printed books and other documents.  The extensive manuscripts and rare books are particularly noted for its rare Kentucky imprints and unique primary sources as well as the W. Hugh Peal Collections of 18th and 19th century English literature.  Special Collections holds other notable holdings include the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection (primary and secondary sources supporting Appalachian studies) and the Public Policy Archives (the collections of 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 Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History contains more than 9,000 interviews representing more than 250 national or Kentucky-related projects.  The Nunn Center has become an international leader in providing digital access to oral histories.  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), LYRASIS library network, 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.  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, comprised of the libraries of UK, the 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 UK Libraries and the UK School of Library and Information Science.  Library faculty with particular expertise teach courses in the school while graduate students in the program gain important work experience in a research library through their employment with UK Libraries.   

Established in 2003, the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA) is an award-winning internet resource sponsored by UK Libraries which provides biographical and historical information concerning African Americans in and from Kentucky. The NKAA covers the early history, from the 1700s to the present and 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.

The Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL) provides a common integrated library system for Kentucky’s public university libraries and some private schools and facilitates document sharing among Kentucky libraries. UK Libraries coordinates the integrated library system for KYVL and 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 from archives throughout the commonwealth.  Built and administered since 1997 by UK Libraries with support from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.  KDL  presently 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 culture 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.

UK Libraries is one of the original six institutions chosen to participate in the NEH funded, Library of Congress National Digital Newspaper Program, project to digitize 20 million pages from U.S. newspapers in the public domain. The first 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, the date range for all titles will include 1860-1923.

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

HOURS for September 23, 2021