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The most popular libraries in London

Libraries are usually a quiet place where intentional minds seek information. Often stacked with books, demarcated by shelves, organised in aisles, and full of natural light. Most believe libraries are a haven for human curiosity and instrumental in enhancing critical thinking and ethical reasoning. We all have different impressions of a library, some are aligned towards its core goal as a learning zone, and others may have sightly varying views. Regardless of the tightly or loosely held opinions, London is full of national, special, and university libraries. The multinational professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers referred to London as the global capital of higher education. Much in reference to the city’s concentration of top-class universities and an international student population of over 110,000 people. As a city burgeoning with universities, a higher concentration of libraries is expected in a similar magnitude. 

We hope you’ve all been to a library or seen one from a walk in your local neighbourhood or in a movie. With the advancement of technology, educational resources can now be accessed via hardcover books or online journal articles. The blend of physical and online resources ensures libraries can be a domain of rich information. Libraries play an essential role in the tertiary education world. Shelby Foote once stated, “A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.” Not all libraries are located within the parameter of a school or a university environment. There are public libraries and London is believed to have over 390 of these learning centres. Let’s have a quick run-through of some of the most popular public libraries in the capital. 


Most popular public libraries in London 

  • The British Library: There are numerous public libraries in London but The British Library is the largest and the most popular. It is one of the largest libraries in the world and is estimated to contain approximately between 170 to 200 million items in a variety of formats including manuscripts, books, newspapers, journals, music recordings, patents, databases, drawings, prints, and a host of other resources. The total number of books is about 14 million pieces. A major research library with resources in a variety of languages and heavily sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. Did you know before 1973, the Library was part of the British museum? Here is a fun fact. 
  • The London Library: It is an independent library that emerged as a result of dissatisfaction with some of the policies made by the British Museum. It was established in 1841 and is located at St James’s Square, London. As a registered charity, its main goal is to further education, knowledge, and learning. 
  • The Guildhall Library: It is one of the largest public libraries in London and was formed in the 1420s.  Considered to be a public reference library with a particular focus on topics relevant to London. The administration of the library is carried out by the Corporation of London. It moved to modern premises in the Guildhall building in the 1970s. 

Aside from the above, other great public libraries in London includes Barbican, Dulwich, Holborn, Mitchan, Kilburn, Limehouse, South Norwood, and a host of others. The role of libraries in general and public libraries in particular, can not be overstated. They prove beneficial as a cultural, educational, social, and informational institution. Education may not start or end in libraries, but they are nurtured or fostered in these physical and virtual structures of learning

Londonist DMC


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