The main building consists of twelve floors including a closed access stack (and tower) and an extensive Special Collections department. In addition, there are branch libraries for Dentistry (known as the James Ireland Memorial Library), Veterinary Medicine (named for James Herriot), Medicine, Business History and Chemistry, as well as other smaller collections. Additionally, the large Adam Smith branch library holds the majority of the social science collection. The main library building dates from 1968, but major extensions were added in the 1980s and as recently as 1997. The original building has recently been refurbished to provide a modern information environment. A variety of study spaces have been made available to suit different needs.
The library provides a resource not only for staff and students but also for the local community and visitors from around the world. It can seat over two thousand readers and contains over six hundred computers providing networked study facilities.
The Special Collections Department is one of the foremost resources in the United Kingdom for academic research and teaching. Constructed over a period of more than five hundred and fifty years by purchase, gift and bequest, the collections now contain around a quarter of a million manuscript items and over two hundred thousand printed works, including over a thousand incunabula.
The library functions as one of the most comprehensive European Documentation Centres in the continent. The EDC holdings can be found, along with a vast collection of maps and parliamentary papers on Level 7 at the Maps and Official Publications (MOPs) Department. At present, the library staff comprises the Director of Library Services, around thirty-five professionally qualified librarians and more than two hundred support staff including library assistants, IT assistants, clerical staff, attendants and shelvers.
Thereafter, the Library grew rapidly. From 1709-1836, it was a legal deposit library, entitled to a copy of every book deposited at Stationers' Hall in London. Dr. McGill, Professor of Divinity, remarked in 1826 that the library received very few valuable books and "a great many idle books". When legal deposit was reviewed in 1836, Glasgow lost its copyright library status for an annual lump sum, which allowed it to develop its collections more systematically. The very respectable figure of 150,000 volumes in stock by 1888 was in part also due to the great tradition of large donations by wealthy private collectors, such as William Hunter, John Smith of Crutherland, George Walker-Arnott, William Euing and David Murray, which have greatly enriched it's collections, a tradition which, happily, continues to this day.