The purpose of the DeGolyer Library is to acquire primary materials, to arrange and describe them, to preserve them for the future, and to promote their use by scholars and students. In this effort, the DeGolyer offers fellowships; sponsors lectures, conferences, and social events; hosts graduate and undergraduate classes; regularly mounts exhibitions for the public; and publishes catalogues, checklists, finding aids, and other works that interpret its holdings and make them more readily accessible.
DeGolyer Library began as a private collection around 1913 with the early and intelligent collecting interests of Everette L. DeGolyer, Sr., a major figure in the twentieth-century oil business. In addition to his pioneering work in petroleum geology and geophysics, Mr. DeGolyer was an extraordinary book collector and philanthropist. During his lifetime, he gave his collection of American and English literature to the University of Texas and his history of science collection to the University of Oklahoma. After Mr. DeGolyer's death in 1956, the family library was maintained by the newly-incorporated DeGolyer Foundation and was aggressively expanded by the son of the founder, Everett L. DeGolyer, Jr. In 1973 the DeGolyer Foundation gave the library to SMU, where it is now housed in the original Fondren Library building.
Even in its early days the DeGolyer Library played a significant role on the cultural scene in Dallas. It was housed in its own splendid library room at “Rancho Encinal,” the DeGolyer estate overlooking White Rock Lake. This setting is still recalled by some long-time residents of the city as the site of memorable social events. Today, the DeGolyer Library serves scholars and students at SMU and visiting researchers from all around the world.