The Library complex of the University consists of a Central Library and over 80 college/departmental libraries. Libraries of the colleges, institutes and departments, cater to the needs of postgraduates and students of professional courses.
The University has established Book Banks for the benefit of students of certain professional courses. The Central Library was set up in 1875, when this institution was established as Madarsatul Uloom. In 1877, the Madarsa became Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College. Lord Lytton, the viceroy of India, laid the foundation stone, and the library was named after him as Lytton Library. Eminent scholars like Gardner Brown, Arnold, Releigh, Horowitz, Storey and Auchtelpone functioned as honorary librarians in addition to their teaching responsibilities.
In 1960, it was named as Maulana Azad Library when the first Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, inaugurated its present building. The Seven storied building is surrounded by 4.75 acres of land in the form of beautiful lawns and gardens. It is the most beautiful building of the University and one of the few very attractive libraries in the country. The Library has about 9,00,000 books.
The collection consists of books, periodicals, pamphlets, manuscripts, paintings and photographs. M.A. Library performs the functions of a National Library so far as its collection of Oriental manuscripts are concerned. It is because of these rich collections of immense research value that this Library is reckoned among major libraries of the world. The oldest manuscript owned by the library is more than fourteen hundred years old. It is a fragment of the Holy Quran transcribed by Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam and is written on parchment in Kufi script. Another rare collection is the Halnama of Beyazid Ansari, no copy of which is available anywhere else in the world.
The Library has a sizeable collection of early printed books in various languages. The most outstanding among them is the Latin translation of the celebrated Arabic work on optics, opticam prafatis, by Ibn-al-Haitham (965-1039) published in 1572.
There are several farmans (decrees) of the Mughal kings like Babur, Akbar, Shahjahan, Shah Alam, Shah Alamgir, Aurangzeb etc. Another prized possession of the library is a “Shirt” on which the whole Quran is inscribed in khafi script. This shirt is believed to have been worn by a warrior of Mughal army.
Among the large collection of Mughal paintings is the painting of Red Blossom, which is magnum opus of Mansoor Naqqash, the celebrated court artist of Emperor Jahangir. Some valuable Sanskrit works translated into Persian have also been preserved in the library. Other possessions worth mentioning is the Ayurved in Telugu and the Bhasa’s in Malyalam script written on palm leaves. Abul Faiz Faizi, an eminent scholar of Akbar’s court translated several Sanskrit works into Persian, such as Maha Puran, Bhagvat Gita, Mahabharat and Lila Wati, these are also available.
More than 5,000 students, teachers and other members of the university daily visit the library and utilize its services.