Nowadays, much of the news that we consume is either through online sources on our tablets, phones, or laptops. Similarly, many of the novels we read are electronically available and I’m sure you know someone who will own a Kindle or even own one yourself! Because of this, it’s easy to forget about libraries.
However, it’s hard to forget about libraries when you’re in the English capital, London. It’s home to some of the world’s grandest and most gorgeous libraries in the world and they’re about so much more than just books…
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The London Library
Let’s start with the most obvious. Founded in 1841 and located in the St. James’ area of Westminster, The London Library is home to more than one million books and periodicals in over 15 languages, spread across 17 miles of shelves.
And the collection just keeps on growing! Every year, around 8,000 new volumes are added to its collection – so you can be sure you will not be picking up the same book! The works date back to the 16th century, right up to the modern-day and anyone can become a member.
This library boasts several workstations and areas, such as the breathtaking Victoria Reading Room, the Art room and the Writer’s room – a space for every type of work you are looking to do. But we shouldn’t forget the Times Room, containing original copies of newspapers spanning back over two centuries, a great place to sit and learn about historical current affairs.
You can easily find the London Library a short walk away from Hyde Park, but if you aren’t close to the Marble Arches then the nearest tube stations are Green Park and Piccadilly Circus.
The British Library
If you’re looking for something grand where you’re spoilt for choice The British Library is where you need to go. It’s the largest library in the world, with an estimated 170 million items from across the globe, some dating back to as early as 2000BC and some 14 million books!
It’s best known for its world-leading collection and similarly to the above, it never stops growing! Three million items are added every year, contributing another six miles of new shelf space.
Many people come to the British Library to get their hands on the Diamond Sutra – the world’s earliest-dated print book, printed in 868. You can also find several Bibles from the 4th, 9th and 15th centuries, as well as two 1215 copies of the Magna Carta, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and handwritten Beatles lyrics – it really has everything! It’s also home to more than just words – it has an extensive sound archive that holds more than a million discs and 185,000 tapes too.
The nearest tube station is King’s Cross St. Pancras Station.
National Art Library
Next up, if you’re taking a trip to the free-to-all Victoria and Albert Museum we encourage you to pop by the National Art Library held inside.
Located on the first floor of the museum, it features the fine and decorative arts across many countries and periods of time. It also overlooks the quaint John Madejski Garden, so you can study in tranquillity in front of a beautiful view – as long as the English weather holds out!
The library coverage subjects central to the work of the Victoria and Albert Museum and its collections include prints, drawing and paintings, furniture and woodwork, textiles, dresses and fashion, ceramics and glass, metalwork, sculpture, and art and design of Far East India and South East Asia.
Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library, located a short walk away from Hyde Park is housed in a Grade ||-listed building which was opened by the Queen Mother herself in July 1960. It was previously constructed for a Mr Abbot in 1880 but was then destroyed in 1944 by a bomb attack and was later reconstructed and built for the purpose of a library in 1960. The building resembles the tradition, English, renaissance-style. On the south side of the library, you will find two statues of a lion and a unicorn, both holding the Royal Arms of the UK, sculpted to reflect the ‘Royal’ status of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Inside you will have access to eBooks, eMagazines, eNewspapers, eAudiobooks and eComics as well as a CD collection which you can reserve online and pick up at your local library.
The nearest tube stations are Holborn and Temple.
The Barbican resembles different things to different people. It is Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue which holds two theatres as well as a three-screen cinema and it is currently the home of the London and BBC Symphony Orchestras.
It is also home to the City of London’s leading public library, where you will find a variety of books, spoken word recordings, DVDs and CDs. You can also be sure to be entertained when at the Barbican Library as there are regular events scheduled covering anything from folk music to Shakespeare.
The nearest tube stations to the Library are Barbican, St Paul’s or Moorgate.
The Maughan Library
For a different experience, you can visit the 19th-century neo-gothic building, The Maughan Library. This library was named after King’s College London alumni Sir Deryck Maughan in 2011 and houses more than 750,000 items.
It is a popular place to visit amongst students as it is Britain’s largest new university library since World War || and was acquired by the Kings College London in 2001. Inside you will find the dodecagonal reading room, inspired by the British Museum, and a form medieval chapel which is now used as an exhibition space for special collections of the library. You can also find Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code inside! If you decide to take a trip down to this library you might just recognise it from scenes in some well-known films including Johnny English (2003).
The closest tube station to the library is Temple, Charing Cross, Covent Garden and Embankment.
Again, another popular place for students is the LSE Library (The London School of Economics and Political Science). With over 4.5 million items over 31 miles of shelving, this library is bustling with history, life and student culture.
It’s also the go-to place for resources in women with its very own Women’s Library. With literature detailing the women’s movements focusing on great political, economic and social changes in the UK affecting women throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
This building is sure to take you back in time as it boasts over 60,000 books and pamphlets, 3,000 journal titles, over 500 archives and 5,000 museum objects including photographs, posters, badges and banners – it’s one you don’t want to miss.
The nearest tube station to the library is Aldgate East.
Camden Town Library
Finally, situated in the heart of trendy Camden Town, Camden Town Library can be found on the ground floor of the Crowndale Centre. While it won’t be rooted in history and not home to thousands of books and the like, its focus is being a space where the local community can use it for whatever purpose they should need.
A cosy place where many people go to loan books, read a newspaper or simply relax.