The World’s Largest Libraries: The Top 5 Ranked
Most of us will be lucky enough to have a local library, whether it’s at a nearby community centre, school or university. It’s probably a relatively small building or even room, designed to cater to people's’ essential or local needs. However, some people are even luckier and are served by (or can visit!) one of the world’s largest libraries, which are huge and sprawling buildings containing many millions of items. These catalogues of culture and heritage are truly special places - let’s have a look at the five largest here.
The British Library is the largest library in the world, with the caveat that it’s actually in two locations - London and Leeds. Between 150 million and 200 million books are stored at this incredible institution, which is Britain’s National library, aiming to be one of the world’s greatest records of the written word. In addition to housing a copy of all books published in Britain, there are some truly special pieces here, including Magna Carta and an ancient copy of Beowulf.
Library of Congress
The single biggest individual library in the world (though comprising various buildings) is the US Library of Congress in Washington D.C., which holds more than 160 million items. The library is open to the public, but its primary purpose is actually to serve members of congress as they carry out research to help the running of the country. In addition to the many important items held here, the inside of the buildings are incredibly beautiful, with the main reading room a particular highlight. Amazingly, as large as this library may be, it could be filled 103 times with all of the printed copies of Agatha Christie’s novels in existence.
New York Public Library
Another American library, the New York Public Library is designed to serve the general public of the city and state of New York. It holds more than 53 million items and is spread over 92 locations. The main branch of the library is a famous landmark, recognisable by the two iconic lion statues that sit either side of the entrance. It was founded in 1895 and is considered among the most important libraries in the whole of the United States.
Library and Archives Canada
One of the newer libraries on our list, the Library and Archives Canada was founded in just 2004, and aims to be the main documenter of Canadian heritage and culture. However, much of the collection and associated buildings have been in the process of collection and development under various other institutional names for several decades. At this library, there are around 54 million items, and as a federal institution, it takes part in legal deposit, meaning Canadian-published books must have a copy sent here.
Established in 1847, the Shanghai Library contains around 50 million items, much of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Tens of thousands of ancient Chinese texts are kept here in addition to the millions of more modern works. The building itself is spectacular - designed like a modern interpretation of a lighthouse - and is the second tallest library anywhere in the world, with a stunning 24 floors!