The Library at Queen’s was established in 1849 following the foundation of the original college in 1845. Based initially in the Great Hall, and, from 1869, in its own separate accomodation, the Library catered to the needs of all students enrolled in the college before future growth and expansion dictated otherwise. Today the Library is dispersed across a number of departmental libraries throughout Northern Ireland each providing access to what has become one of the largest collections of books, periodicals and pamphlets in the province with over one million items noted in the official library catalogue.
The Special Collections service provides access to the Library's rare and early printed book, map, and manuscripts collections, as well as to more modern material relating to Ireland and Ulster in particular. It contains approximately 100 000 volumes, including 20 incunabula, 267STC and 1430 Wing items, as well as 60 manuscript collections. All items held in Special Collection are considered to be of lasting research value and include examples of the earliest printed works, and books and pamphlets published between the 16th and early 19th centuries. In order to preserve the material for future readers the collections are housed in a secure and environmentally controlled setting.