On March 7, 1853 a Library and Reading room were formally opened in the Institute for Colored Youth (I.C.Y.). Located in a building at Seventh and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia, the collection was available free of charge to residents of the nearby community. By 1855 there were 427 registered borrowers. The circulation figure that year was 5005 items borrowed. In 1856 the Quaker Board of Managers reported that the collection numbered 1,500 volumes. In 1863 The Smithsonian Institution donated 144 scientific and philosophical works. By 1877, through purchases and gifts, 3,022 volumes had been acquired.

In 1903 the I.C.Y. moved to what is now Cheyney, PA. The Carnegie Library, (Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000 toward its cost and that amount was matched by the Quaker Board), opened on the new campus in 1909. The Carnegie building is on the Quadrangle across from Humphreys Hall. Not unlike many early Carnegie libraries, the building housed a gymnasium and assembly area as well. An addition to the Library building, and, its renaming in honor of Leslie Pinckney Hill (last Principal and first President of what is now Cheyney University) occurred in 1962.

The present Leslie Pinckney Hill Library is located on the Upper Campus. It houses the print and nonprint collections that support the curriculum, a selection of government documents, and a growing number of workstations that provide access to both electronic resources and the Internet. The University Archives are also located in L.P. Hill Library.

A painting of note still housed in the Library is the portrait of Leslie Pinckney Hill done by Laura Wheeler Waring, (a former Cheyney instructor and winner of the Harmon Award, internationally known for her portraiture).

A digital exhibit was prepared by Dr. Judith Giesburg and some Villanova students on the the Institute for Colored Youth in the Civil War Era .