Since its founding in 1795, the Union College library has been housed in various places on campus. Throughout the nineteenth century, its resources were supplemented by those of a number of College literary societies, whose materials were eventually were incorporated into the general library collection. From 1903 until 1961 when the current building was completed, the central library was located in the Nott Memorial. In the summer of 1961, the books were transferred to what is now known as Schaffer Library. The building was transformed in 1999 with the completion of a major expansion and renovation project.
Schaffer Library houses close to 1 million volumes in print and electronic formats, including nearly all of the materials purchased to create the first College library in 1795. "First Purchase" books are housed in the library's Special Collections, which also contains many other treasures added to the library's collections over the years. Among the College's most prized possessions kept in Special Collections are an elephant folio edition of Audubon's Birds of America, which the College purchased directly from the artist; the original Ramée drawings for the campus; the Trianon editions of William Blake's works; and the original College charter.
On-going additions to the general collections are in all contemporary information formats, including more than 11,000 serial titles in print and electronic formats. The library has also been a partial depository for federal government documents since 1901.