Libraries hold all types of things other than just books. The University of Michigan’s Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library is just one of several academic art libraries that has a Materials Collection. Comprised of around 800 samples, the collection is meant to inspire artists and designers by giving them the opportunity to touch and experience different materials in real life. Most of the collection comes from a materials consultancy company called Material Connexion, but the library adds items by request, too. Its curator, librarian Rebecca Price, hopes that with the growth of the collection and increasing awareness of its existence, more students and faculty will reach out and make requests for materials to purchase.
Most use of the Materials Collection comes from students and faculty in Architecture or Art & Design programs. Classes have used the collection to create sustainable packaging designs and signage assignments, just to name a few examples. The collection was also used by students in the Dance department who were searching for an iridescent material for costumes. The library will be loaning out some of the collection to be on display at college makerspace, hopefully sparking more interest in the collection.
You can learn more about The University of Michigan’s Materials Collection here. Some other universities I found that house similar collections are Princeton, Harvard, Kendall College of Art and Design, and The University of Utah.