The Echols Collection is a joint undertaking of Cornell University, the library, and the Southeast Asia Program. In the 1960s, the Library of Congress began an Overseas Acquisitions Program. As its contribution to this national effort, Cornell agreed to acquire a copy of every publication of research value produced in the countries of Southeast Asia.
The Rockefeller, Ford, and Mellon Foundations have awarded endowments that continue to provide funding for library staff and acquisitions, a tradition that distinguishes the Echols Collection from not only all others at Cornell, but also other Southeast Asia collections in the United States. As a premier resource on Southeast Asia, the Echols collection annually adds more than 9,000 volumes to its collection. It is the most comprehensive body of material on a global region in the Cornell University Library system and the largest collection of its kind on Southeast Asia in the United States, and in the world.
Currently, the collection holds a vast amount of material in a wide variety of formats, including monographs, microtext items, journals, magazines and newspapers, audio and visual materials, and a rapidly expanding set of electronic databases. Thousands of photographs and numerous archival collections dealing with Southeast Asia are held and serviced by the Rare and Manuscript Collection Division. The Echols map and visual resources collections, which are held in the lower level of Olin Library, are also very extensive.