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The Library of the College of William & Mary is almost as old as the College itself. More information about each of the buildings in which the library has lived can be found on their respective pages.

Library, 1693-1909

For more information about the 18th Century library, see Books Owned by the College of William & Mary Prior to 1793.

The original library of the College of William & Mary was located in the Wren Building. It consisted of over 200 books donated by Francis Nicholson, governor of Virginia from 1698 to 1705. This library was destroyed, except for one book, in the fire of 1705. After the building was rebuilt, the library collection was also. The library suffered additional damage during the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War and was again destroyed in the fires of 1859 and 1862. After the College was reopened after the Civil War, the library remained in the Wren Building until 1909.

The Old Library

In 1905, Andrew Carnegie pledged $20,000 for the construction of a new library on campus. The building was just called the Library and served as such from 1909-1966. This building is now known as Tucker Hall.

Earl Gregg Swem Library

On January 4, 1966, Earl Gregg Swem Library opened, even though it was not yet fully complete. There were renovations and additions to the building in 1986-1988 and 1998-2005.

Number of Library Volumes

1831-1833: 3600

1834-1837: 3500

1838-1840: 3600

1841: 4250

1842-1857: 5000

1858: 8500

1859-1860: 9000

1861: 53000

Material in the Special Collections Research Center

  • The Flat Hat
  • The Colonial Echo
  • William & Mary Catalogs
  • Library, University Archives Photograph Collection.
  • Library, University Archives Subject File Collection.



Want to find out more?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for other resources to help you find materials of interest.

Questions? Have ideas or updates for articles you'd like to see? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at or 757-221-3090.

A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.