The library ships were automated, each sent to one of the colony worlds without human crews, maintained by hundreds of general-purpose and specialized robots and computerized systems. Powered by Stenhouse Drive, they were able to achieve speeds of about 60% of the speed of light, so their voyages took years.

When advanced Stenhouse technology made faster-than-light communication possible, the library ships installed Links, allowing instantaneous communication between Earth and the colonies. Further improvements in the technology eventually made FTL travel possible also.

The main hull of each library ship was about two thousand feet long and nine hundred feet in diameter, in the shape of a twelve-sided cylinder. Each of the twelve sides was a deck about two hundred feet wide running the length of the hull. A large portal in the forward bulkhead allowed shuttles to leave and enter the library ship.