When was the last time you visited a library? I hope it was not so long ago because I would hate for any of these 10 amazing largest libraries in the world to close down. Why? Because they are the biggest in the world based on catalogue size (basically the number of books). While some are not that impressive to look at, they are impressive to the people using them.
With the advent of smart phones and kindle, it seemed that the era of reading proper paperback books were over. However, even today if you ask a book lover about their fantasy most of them would say: ‘reading a book in a nook of a beautiful library’.
The fact of the matter remains that even if the technology is progressing, nothing can take away the charm of reading a paperback book.
For all those reading addicts, here is the list of 10 must-visit Largest libraries in World that have amazing collections:
10. The Royal Library of Denmark
Catalogue: 35.4 million
Annual Budget: 385.9 million DKK
Denmark’s Royal Library is the largest in the Nordic region (Nordic countries). It was founded by King Frederik III in the 17th century. Since then, It has a copy of almost every printed work in the country.
Due to several high-profile donations over the years, the library now has almost every known publication in Denmark’s history, including the very first printed book (sometime in 1482) by Johann Snell.
As of 2015, the library has 35.4 million items, of which nearly 20 million were documents and images, 6.4 million books and journals the remaining were historical pamphlets, corporate publications, and other artifacts. The library’s digital collection has reached 791 terabytes.
9. National Library of Russia
Catalogue: 36.5 million items
Annual Budget: 570 million Rubles
The National Library of Russia, located in St. Petersburg, is the first and oldest public library in the nation (though it’s not the largest). It, along with the Russian State Library (Moscow) and Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, serves as the legal deposit for publications in the country.
The library holds an extensive amount of documents, journals, and manuscripts concerning the nation’s cultural and national heritage. Of the 36 million items, 15 million are just books. Other collections include magazines, newspapers, official documents, sound recordings, databases, maps, and other media.
8. National Library of China
Cataloged Size: 37.7 million items
The National Library of China (NLC) is the largest in Asia (by catalog size) and one of the largest in the world. Though the library was initially established in 1909 under the Qing dynasty, it was formally inaugurated three years later in 1912.
In 1928, its name was changed to National Peiping Library before being officially renamed to the National Library of China in 1987.
NLC shelters many valuable pieces of Chinese literature. It also features rarities such as inscribed bones and shells dated back to the 16th century BC, the oldest surviving journal on Chinese medicine, and various ancient maps and diagrams.
Most recent publications include the works of the United Nations and other foreign governments in more than one hundred different languages.
7. Bibliothèque nationale de France
Catalogue: 40 million items
Annual Budget: €254 million
As the national library of France, the BnF is entitled to a copy of every single publication in the country. It also features an extensive collection of historical materials.
The library’s digital repository, Gallica, provides its users access to more than 4.2 million documents, 500,000 books, and close to 2 million newspaper articles and magazines.
The origin of BnF can be traced back to the Royal Library established at the Louvre Palace by Charles V in 1368. Most of the library’s modern premises were built during its 1998 expansion under President François Mitterrand.
6. National Diet Library
One of the two main facilities of National Diet Library, Tokyo | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Catalogue: 41.9 million items
Annual Budget: ¥21.8 billion
The National Diet Library or NDL is the national library of Japan. It was established in 1948. following the merger of two state-owned entities, the library of the House of Representatives and the House of Peers (now House of Councillors), to better serve the elected members of the Japanese legislature.
As the largest library in the country, NDL maintains a vast collection of national and international publications in foreign languages. It accommodates a staggering 30 million documents from the post-war occupation of Allied forces in Japan, about half-a-million advanced science books, and close to 500,000 maps.
The library has two main facilities, one in Tokyo and another in Kyoto. Several smaller ones are scattered throughout Japan.
5. Russian State Library
Catalogue: 47.2 million items
Annual Budget: 1.6 billion Rubles
The Russian State Library, situated in Moscow, is the largest in the country. Founded on July 1, 1862, it is also the oldest library in the Russian capital.
This historic library accommodates an astonishing 44 million items, of which 17 million are books, 13 million are journals, and documents in over 247 different languages. It also features about 350 thousand audio and 150,000 pieces of maps.
It is one of the three legal deposit libraries in the country. From the 1920s to 1991, the fall of the USSR, it has a copy of every book published in the former Soviet Union. This practice is still in use.
4. Library and Archives, Canada
Catalogue: 54 million items
Annual Budget: C$116.9 million
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a Canadian national institution responsible for preserving the country’s cultural heritage and making them easily accessible.
It was established after the merger of the National Archives and the National Library of Canada under the Library and Archives of Canada Act in 2004.
LAC houses more than 20 million books, 24 million images, and a staggering one petabyte of digitized content. Some of the most significant collections available on the library’s online repository are the proclamation of the Canadian Constitution Act and the British North America Pact.
3. New York Public Library
Catalogue: 55 million items
Annual Budget: US$302 million
The New York Public Library (NYPL) is a chain of public libraries operating in the City of New York. Based on the total number of cataloged items, the NYPL is the third largest library in the world and second-largest in the United States.
Due to its open nature, about 18 million people visit the library each year, making NYPL the most visited library in the world.
At the moment, there are 89 branches of NYPL operating throughout the city, with 41 in Manhattan, 35 in the Bronx, and the rest on Staten Island. A new branch in Manhattan was inaugurated in June 2016. It also has four open access research libraries.
NYPL’s digital collection contains more than 700 thousand images digitized in recent years. In 2006, the website was listed as one of the 50 Coolest Websites of 2005 by Time Magazine.
2. Library of Congress
Catalogue: 168 million+ items
Annual Budget: US$642.4 million
Perhaps one of the world’s most iconic libraries, the Library of Congress, is the national library of the United States, in Capitol Hill, a historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
The library’s collections are universal – more than 168 million items that include 39 million books are in 470 different languages. Furthermore, it houses about 70 million rare manuscripts, more than 14 million visual materials, 5.6 million maps, and 4 million audio and sound materials.
Each year, the library receives $6-8 million funding specifically for the digitization of its most significant collections. About 15 million library items are digital so far. However, they represent less than 10% of the library’s total items.
The LOC also gives online access to U.S Congressional proceedings, which includes summaries, bill text, and the U.S Constitution.
1. British Library
Catalogue: 170 million items
Annual Budget: £141 million
The British Library, situated on Euston Road in London, is currently the largest in the world. It was the part of the British Museum and became different library after 1973.
For a few years after that, all its collections were located in different facilities around central London before finding its current location.
Some of the most important collections of the library include rare manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Hans Sloane. It also features the King’s Library (a collection of books and scholarly articles assembled by King George III) as well as other Royal manuscripts.
The British Library has a significant online presence as well. Its online image gallery gives you access to more than 30,000 pictures from ancient and medieval books, including a unique “turn the virtual pages” facility of a few famous books and documents like Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.