The Ryerson & Burnham Libraries constitute a major art and architecture research collection serving The Art Institute of Chicago and scholars in the fields of art and architectural history with more than 500,000 print titles, 100,000 auction catalogs, 1,200 current serial subscriptions, and extensive digital collections. Approximately 10,000 volumes are added annually. All periods and media are covered, but special emphasis is placed on architecture of the 18th through 20th centuries and 19th century painting, prints, drawings, and decorative arts. Special collections include the Percier and Fontaine Collection of 17th-19th century architectural books, the Mary Reynolds Collection on Dada and Surrealism, the George R. Collins Archive of Catalan Art and Architecture, and the Mrs. James Ward Thorne Collection of illustrated books.
The Reading Room ("Open Shelf") collection contains reference bibliographies, indexes, dictionaries, surveys, current periodicals and auction catalogs, as well as copies of Art Institute publications and exhibition catalogs. All other materials are housed in the Libraries' book stacks and must be requested by following the Libraries' paging procedures.