At the center of every great university is a great library. The Robert E. Kennedy Library is at the forefront of supporting Cal Poly’s unique educational mission. We accomplish this mission by collecting and preserving both traditional and digital collections, fostering active learning environments in the Library and online, and supporting the University’s scholarship publishing efforts. At the core of our existence is the creation, preservation and distribution of knowledge in support of Cal Poly’s educational objectives. While acting as a conservator of the University’s creative energy, the Kennedy Library plays a major role in moving the university forward into the 21st century.

College Librarians serve as subject specialists to work proactively in each of Cal Poly’s colleges and develop and support a wide range of academic technology. The Library also contains archival collections on California architects and architecture, local and regional history, ethnic studies, and fine printing and graphic arts. DigitalCommons@CalPoly provides an online initiative that provides a centralized location to preserve and provide unlimited access to the rich variety of intellectual and scholarly work produced at Cal Poly.

The Robert E. Kennedy Library offers a wealth of services for students to support Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” philosophy: 24 hour study space, 20 group study rooms, special group study space for graduate students, expert help and one-on-one consultation for students working on their senior projects, over 300 computers, friendly help with course reserves and class assignments, and on-site coffee/food. Cal Poly has a collection of approximately 600K books, over 45,000 electronic journals, 754 print journals and access to major electronic resources through CSU-wide licenses. Last academic year, the Library registered over 1.2 million visits.

» Read more about the Library in our Annual Publication

Your gifts help shape our future

In the 30+ years since the Kennedy Library was built, instructional methods and library services have experienced profound changes. The Library is transforming to be an active space that meets a multitude of academic and social needs. We need your assistance to keep our competitive edge.

Funding opportunities

Library collections

The costs of purchasing and maintaining rich and diverse collections, both traditional print and electronic resources continue to rise, while state allocations to support university budgets continue to decline.

The Robert E. Kennedy Library strives to support the instruction and research efforts of all of the Colleges by providing access to the widest array of information resources. Working collaboratively with the colleges to raise funds that directly support the print and digital resources needed by each college is an ideal way to support faculty and students while also strengthening the Library. You can support both the Library and an academic program by contributing to an existing academic area endowment for Library resources and collections or setting up a new College-specific endowment.

Strengthening collections to support all disciplines

Research and teaching needs of our faculty and students require that our collections reflect the most current information and that information should be made available on a 24/7 basis.

We have an ongoing need for more information resources than the library’s allocated budget can cover and we ask for your support to maintain and build our collections.

The print and electronic resources listed below have been identified by our College Librarians as critical to our mission to support research and teaching here at Cal Poly. We ask you to consider a donation to support one of these resources.

Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences

Environment Complete Index
This is one of the most comprehensive databases for the environmental sciences and related disciplines, including agriculture, ecosystem ecology, renewable energy sources, natural resources, geography, pollution & waste management, environmental technology, environmental law, public policy, and social impacts. This database would be beneficial to all departments in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences.


MADCAD is an online guide to thousands of building codes and standards. Cal Poly’s Architecture and Environmental Design students would be most effectively served by a customized subscription package including International Building Codes with Commentary, National Fire Protection Agency Life Safety Codes and California Title 24 ADA Compliance Guidelines. Online access would be a valuable tool for students and would bring Cal Poly the full and current digital access experienced by professionals in the industry.


Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan Online provides full text global research reports on emerging high-technology and industrial markets in 50 countries. Reports are available in four categories: Industry, Technical, Economic, and Applications for Growth. Students would have access to a deeper range of market research reports, specifically in areas not covered by, including information and communication technologies, environment and building technologies, and emerging industries.


Faculty and students need access to relevant and reliable content and data, whether looking up a chemical formula, comparing properties of substances or researching alternative energy sources. Drawing from more than 90 leading technical publishers and professional societies including AIAA, AIChE, ASHRAE, ASME, and SAE, Knovel provides access to professional quality technical information and provides interactive tools to analyze the results.

Liberal Arts

Early English Books Online
Early English Books Online is one of the first and foremost databases of digital books. From the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, this collection of facsimile document images now contains more than 125,000 titles. It would provide incredible value to Cal Poly students, not only in the obvious fields of literature and history, but for applied fields such as Graphic Communications and Art and Design. This collection allows students and faculty to fulfill the most exhaustive research requirements – from their desktop – in many subject areas, including philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science.

Science & Math

Web of Science Historical Back files
Web of Science provides access to leading scholarly journal articles as well as proceedings of international conferences, symposia, seminars, colloquia, workshops, and conventions in the sciences and social sciences from the year 1900 onward. Cal Poly faculty and students, whether performing research or in the classroom, would benefit greatly from full and complete access to this extensive record of science scholarship.

Special Collections

Artists Books
Produced in very small editions or as “uniques,” these books-as-art or artworks in book form are primary source materials that support teaching and learning across the Graphic Communication, Art & Design and Humanities curricula at Cal Poly. Acquiring contemporary artists books will enrich both the collection and the learning experience of students and teachers who interact with them.

Library student assistant endowment/fund

The Library Student Assistant Endowment can be considered the Library’s version of a scholarship. This endowment, as well as the Library Student Assistant Fund, helps to finance the 50+ students employed by the Library each year. Library student assistants learn useful skills, as well as support their educational costs. The Library currently spends approximately $180,000 on student assistants.

The Library Student Assistant Endowment generates income that is used to fund student employees. Gifts to the Library Student Assistant Fund make monies available immediately.

Library new technologies endowment

Building a Library for the 21st Century

The role of academic libraries has been undergoing profound changes over the past two decades. At the heart of these changes is the growing role of technology. The mass digitization of journals, indexes and reference resources combined with mobile technology has profoundly altered the way libraries offer access to information. For today’s students, pervasive access to power, wired and wireless connectivity, and computer technology are necessities.

The renovation and future expansion of the Robert E. Kennedy Library will allow easy access to power, large screen display technology, and appropriate furniture arranged in rooms specifically designed to support student projects. Working in collaboration with Cal Poly’s Information Technology Services, access to computers and related technology will continue to be greatly enhanced.

Read about recent technology upgrades in the Library

Library building transformation fund

The renovation of the Robert E. Kennedy Library gives Cal Poly the opportunity to redefine how its library can best support students in a “learn-by-doing” environment. A major renovation of the second floor Learning Commons was completed in September 2008 and many additional renovations are needed, as the current Library building was completed in the late 1970s.

The service model of the Library must continue to adapt quickly to navigate the shift from paper to digital learning resources, to create environments supportive of project-based learning, to utilize technology in ways that are supportive of scholarship in the 21st century, and to pursue programs that actively engage students in learning across the disciplines.

Amidst all the changes, the best of the traditional library musts also be retained and improved. Quiet spaces for contemplation and serious study are still necessary. Access to a broader, deeper collection of books is still a basic requirement of good scholarship.

Read about Library renovations

Special Collections and Archives

Memorial Gifts

Memorial donations can be made to the Robert E. and Mary Kennedy Endowment for Special Collections in the Kennedy Library.

Mailing Options

You can also mail donations to

Library Advancement
Robert E. Kennedy Library
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0443

For more information

Your questions may be referred to Eileen Joseph, Director of Library Advancement

Read about Dr. Kennedy

Learn more about Special Collections

Academic center and library

The world of learning and information has undergone significant transformation since the Robert E. Kennedy Library was completed in 1980. The IBM personal computer (PC) was introduced in1981, the Web first gained attention in 1993, and in 2004 Google announced its intention to digitize over 10 million volumes from the holdings of major research libraries. Each of these milestones has had a significant impact on campus learning environments and the way libraries provide access to information.

Program planning for an expanded library and academic center is currently underway. While detailed building plans are still evolving, we know there are some elements that lie outside the State standards and will require private support. These resources include: a multidisciplinary exhibit gallery appropriate for art, science or technology inspired events; a formal presentation venue appropriate for guest speakers or student entertainment; and, a large conference room with catering facilities appropriate for college symposiums or presidential meetings.

In addition to funding needs for the technology infrastructure, tables and chairs, and audiovisual equipment, naming opportunities will be available for internal spaces as well as for the new building.

Learn more about this program

Learn by Doing Scholar Award

As leaders in Learn by Doing, Cal Poly faculty are uniquely prepared to advance scholarship about our signature pedagogy. A new award will encourage, acknowledge, and share scholarship by Cal Poly faculty about Learn by Doing. The Learn by Doing Scholar award will be given for the first time in May 2015 in two categories:

  • Planned and In-Progress Research – $1000
  • Published Research – $2000

For more information about this new award, including criteria, and application deadlines, please download our flyer (PDF, 1MB), or visit our Learn by Doing Scholar Award page.

Learn more about this program

To learn how you can help, contact Eileen Joseph, Director of Advancement, Information Resources, Technology & Strategic Initiatives, at ude.yloplacnull@hpesoje or (805) 756-5775.