The Red Building Library was formerly the Low Library. At the beginning of the year 1915, the university laid the cornerstone of the library, which was completed in the early summer of the following year. The red building , as its name suggests, has its exterior wall, window panes, front door to wooden staircase inside all painted in red, which carries on the overall style of the St. John’s building complex. The facades are still dry walls of bricks and Chinese gabled roofs, with the exception that the round-arch windows are replaced by long and narrow casement windows. On the first floor of the front facade is a row of long and narrow casement windows in compact arrangement. It is a two-storey building with a mixture of half Chinese and half Western architectural elements, and reinforced concrete and brick-and-timber structures. With an east-facing entrance, it maintains symmetry of the structures along a prominent axis. Overall, it conveys a feeling of solemnity and dignity.


The collection of books in the library was extremely abundant. St. John’s Library was named the Low Library in gratitude for Seth Low (who had been mayor of the New York City and president of Columbia University in the United States) and his brother, both of whom generously donated a variety of books to the library. In 1932, the library collection reached over 43,000 books, half in Chinese and half in foreign languages. By 1949, the collection reached more than 120,000 copies.


In 1952, East China Institute of Politics and Law was established and took over the library. In 1958, it became the library of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences when it was established by merging East China Institute of Politics and Law with Shanghai Institute of Finance and Economics, the Law Department of Fudan University, Shanghai Institute of Economics and Shanghai Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The library remained under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences after the two reopenings of ECUPL, in 1963 and 1979 respectively, until 1999 when the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences removed the books and transferred the vacant building to ECUPL.