Top Ten Libraries

Top 10 Libraries

Our Top Ten  Libraries - See the best (or worst) Libraries  in our Top 10 guide...


Libraries have become more than just a place to store books - they are a haven of peace and quiet for anyone who wants to think and work. Deciding which libraries are the best in the world is difficult. Libraries are about more than just sheer volume of books and we must take into consideration each of their special characteristics. So here we have listed the 10 largest and most respected libraries across the globe. 
1 The Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library
Not only is the Bodleian one of the oldest libraries in Europe but it claims to keep a copy of every book ever published in the English Language. Located in the heart of the Oxford University Campus this is probably the most prestigious library in the world, but although tourists can have tours the Bodleian is otherwise only open to Oxford students. While the British Library may be bigger, nothing could be more beautiful or hallowed than the Bodleian library.

2 The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
In terms of books and shelf space, the Library of Congress is the biggest library in the world and this is the premier research library in the United States. The library was set up in 1800 but when a fire destroyed much of the collection Founding Father Thomas Jefferson donated his personal works. The Library of Congress is also the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States.

3 The National Library of China
The National Library of China
The National Library of China has more than 23 million books making it one of the largest libraries in Asia and the world. The NLC is home to a fascinating collection of Chinese historical documents which date far beyond 1909 when it was founded by the Qing government. The NLC is also a great library to spend time in as it is very atmospheric with its high ceilings and distinctive Chinese architecture. Among the most prized documents are Buddhist sutras dating back to the 6th century.

4 The Harvard University Library
The Harvard University Library
Harvard has the oldest library system in the US with over 16 million books spread out over 90 different libraries. That makes it the third largest library in America after the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library (which has nearly 9 million books). Like Oxford, Harvard has a stunningly beautiful campus and the libraries very much contribute to this with the Widener library in Harvard Yard probably being the most iconic.

5 Library of the Russian Academy of the Sciences
Library of the Russian Academy of the Sciences
Russia has an esteemed literary tradition and this library covers that and much more with just over 20 million books, despite a terrible fire destroying much of the collection in 1988. Not everyone can get into the Library of the Russian Academy of the Sciences, only scholars pursuing higher education and employees from the Russian Academy of the Sciences. The library is located in St Petersburg out on an island. It has been in storing books since 1714.

6 The German National Library
The German National Library
The German National Library, or Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, aims to keep a copy of every German book that has been published since 1913 (It was opened in 1912). It has three main facilities in Berlin, Leipzig and Frankfurt. The Berlin branch of the German national library deals with the acquiring and archiving all music documents made in the German language, and the can include German speakers living abroad. Altogether the three branches have more than 25 million items.

7 The British Library
The British Library
The main public library of the United Kingdom, the British Library is based in London and receives all copies of books published in the UK. It is the foremost research library in the UK and has more than 150 global items. That includes special collections of everything from stamps to magazines. With 14 million books it is the second largest library of English language books in the world.  The British library is located near to the St Pancras rail Station and has a wonderful design with a spacious feel.

8 Berkeley Library
Berkeley Library
Berkeley campus in California has a massive system of 32 different libraries which make it the fourth biggest library in the US. In 2003 the Association of Libraries ranked it the best public library in the world, while it was also the third best university library in America after Harvard and Yale. The best thing about the Berkeley libraries are the specially wound underground stacking systems which maximise the space to keep more books.

9 The Vernadsky National Scientific Library of the Ukraine
The Vernadsky National Scientific Library of the Ukraine
With a staggering 15 million items the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine is among the world’s biggest repositories of books and documents. Many of these are in the Slavic language and there are also important documents from former presidents and important persons of Ukraine. It also has everything from sheet music and serials to maps and magazines. Located in the capital Kiev it serves as the main scientific information centre for the country.

10 Zurich Law Library
Zurich Law Library
In terms of aesthetics you can’t beat the Zurich law Library which was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Contained within an old style Swiss building is a futuristic set of metallic floors which would look more at home inside a spaceship. The glass elevator is the perfect way to get a full overview of this intriguing library which goes further to proving that Zurich is one of Europe’s most exciting cities. 

Visitor Comments

 Security code