Original construction of the library was in two phases. The first phase was opened on October 24, 1973. The second, completed in 1991, nearly doubled the size with additional east and west wings. Both phases were designed by the architect Leo A. Daly. The 1994 Northridge earthquake badly damaged the building forcing the library to close. The original 'phase one building' re-opened later in 1994. The 'second phase wings' needed demolishing and reconstruction, and re-opened in 2000.
The Oviatt Library has a physical collection containing 1.3 million print volumes, of which over one million are books, and over 249,000 bound periodical volumes. The Library subscribes to over 84,000 online journals, 200 online databases, and approximately 500,000 e-books. The microform collection contains 3.1 million pieces. There are over 14,000 sound recordings, and over 60,000 film and video recordings. A special focus is the San Fernando Valley History Collection digital archives.