The Gerontology Library was established at approximately the same time as the field of aging was recognized as an established academic discipline in 1965. Primarily used by students in the program, it began as a one-room collection of 150 books and four journals located in the office of James Birren, the first executive director of the Andrus Gerontology Center. As the collection grew, the attempt was to collect intensively for all types of research materials relevant to the field of aging at an academic level to serve the needs of the Center.
By 1985, the departmental library had become a special branch of the USC library system, maintaining one of the foremost collections on the subject of life-span development and aging in the United States. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of aging studies, the collection includes a comprehensive range of research materials related to the subjects of psychology, sociology, social services, biology, physiology, public policy, demographics, housing, long-term care, death and dying, employment, retirement, geriatrics, geriatric nursing, gerontological social work, cross-cultural and ethnic studies. Although the major emphasis of the collection is on social gerontology, areas of neurobiology—such as the study of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and the biology of aging—are also strongly represented in the collection.