The main fund of the Library dates back to 1783, when Empress Catherine the Great donated 1 100 volumes from the collection of books of the Russian bibliophile of the 18th century Petr Zhukov to the first in Russia Teacher's Seminary. Throughout its history, the library collection has been enriched by private donations. It contains over 200 personal libraries of University professors and prominent figures of Russian science and culture. An important historical source of documentary value is the book collections of the St Petersburg Censorship Committee (20,000 volumes) and the Committee of Foreign Censorship (10 000 volumes) received in the middle of the 19th century; the archive and library of the Free Society of Lovers of Literature, Science and the Arts; and the Library of Bestuzhev’s Higher Courses for Women that were the first higher educational institution for women in Russia. The collection of rare books (100 000 volumes) includes collections of books of the 15th to 20th centuries, including incunabula, palaeotypes, and books in Old Cyrillic script. The collection of oriental manuscripts (over 50 000 units) has no rivals globally.
million of print books and manuscripts can be found in the Scientific Library.
Today, the M Gorky Scientific Library of St Petersburg University has the best collections and is one of the best university libraries in Russia. The Library provides library and bibliographic services for education and research at St Petersburg University. The Library funds are distributed among 20 branch departments, with the main research fund being located in the main building of the University. The Library's regular readers are over 48,000 students, postgraduate students, professors, lecturers, and researchers at the University.
million of e-resources, including journals, monographs, dissertations, and guides, are available in the Library.
The Library offers its services to academic staff and students of the Russian and international universities, and individual researchers. The reading rooms also serve students and academic staff of other universities in St Petersburg and Russia.
The Scientific Library of St Petersburg University is a research and methodological centre of university libraries in the North-Western region of Russia. It brings together 62 libraries. The library has 235 employees who: provide consulting assistance; conduct seminars and conferences; take on internships for librarians on librarianship and bibliography; conduct research in the field of book science; and prepare catalogues and bibliographic indexes.