The Arthur Paul Collection is comprehensive in scope. The library seeks to acquire materials in all languages and on any subject pertaining to Afghan life and culture, from the prehistoric period to the present. Although the majority of the collection consists of history and literature, it also includes materials on economics, education, folklore, law, agriculture, language, architecture, music, geography, and geology. Items date from early 19th Century to the present and include books, periodicals, microforms, maps, documents, newspapers, dissertations, organizational documents, and personal papers. Most of the collection consists of materials in English and the two official languages of Afghanistan, Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian).
In addition, there are publications in many other languages, including German, French, and Russian. Among the importnt items in the collection are the various publications of the Afghan resistance groups or "mujahideen" based in Pakistan, records of the British legation in Kabul, and reports of the U.S. Department of State relating to Afghanistan and Kabul Radio Pashto News Monitoring Service. In 1982, the Library began its ongoing "Afghan Oral History Project". The Library now has more than 46 hours of oral history interviews describing the political situation and the personal experiences of many individuals since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In May 2005, the Center for Afghanistan Studies acquired William Spengler's collection of Afghan materials. It contained about 200 titles of rare Afghan publications, mostly 19th Century books and documents pertaining to British experiences in the country. Some of the titles unique. A few of the historically significant titles in the collection include:
An account of the kingdom of Cabul, and its dependencies, in Persia, Tartary, and India; comprising a view of the Afghaun nation, and a history of the Dooraunee monarchy. by Mountstuart Elphinstone. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1842.
The Afghan Question from 1841 to 1878. by George Douglas Campbell, Duke of Argyll. London: Strahan & Company, 1879.
Afghanistan and the Central Asian Question. by Fred Fisher. London: James Clarke & Co., 1878.