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At the time of the founding of the library the university did not own a single book. Several learned and prominent citizens were approached to collect a basic collection, such as Ubbo Emmius, the first Rector Magnificus, and Joachim Alting, a former burgomaster who had played an important role during the founding phase of the academy. Scholarly books were hardly available in Groningen because the booktrade was still rather undeveloped. Most books for the library therefore had to be bought at auctions and in bookshops in Holland and at regional fairs in other towns. For example, Alting travelled to Holland in 1617, and in the next year he received more than 2,500 guilders as a reimbursement for purchases made for the academy library.

The most important acquisition in the history of the library was a large collection of books originating from provincial monasteries. After the Reductie of 1594 all catholic institutions and properties passed to the Province of Groningen. The books were collected in the library of the Martinikerk (St Martin's) in the town of Groningen, and transferred to the library of the academy (which had been founded jointly by the town and the province), probably in 1624, enriching it with a considerable number of manuscripts and fifteenth- and sixteenth-century printed books. Unfortunately, neither the early catalogues nor the library's records provide any information on this transfer. It may be assumed that a separate list of these books was drawn up as one of the conditions of the transfer was that the collection was to be placed separated from the other library books, and that it could be reclaimed at any time. Such a list has not been preserved, however.