The John M. Flaxman Library is home to more than 120,000 items focused on 20th- and 21st-century visual arts, design, architecture, criticism, theory, and philosophy. The collection strengths are exhibition catalogs, artist monographs, videos, and sound recordings, most of which can be checked out by students, faculty, and staff. More than 350 magazines on arts, media, and social issues can be browsed in the library. These collections are supplemented by ebooks and databases that provide an expanded range of topics, including information on business, education, the sciences, and technology.

Flaxman Library is part of I-Share, allowing our community to borrow books from more than 70 other CARLI libraries in Illinois. Students at SAIC may also utilize the research collections at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson and Burnham Libraries located in the museum, and the Center for Research Libraries in Hyde Park.

Flaxman Library Special Collections include: the Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection with more than 6,000 examples of artists' publications from the last 50 years; the Randolph Street Gallery Archives, documenting a vital and innovative force in Chicago's art community from 1979–98; and the 16mm Film Study Collection, featuring experimental, avant garde, and local filmmakers.

The library's MacLean Visual Resources Center is responsible for ARTstor Shared Shelf, an in-house, faculty-driven image bank designed for teaching, and SAIC Digital Libraries, a web-accessible platform for sharing our unique collections with the world.