*Review of the best according to the editorial board. About the selection criteria. This material is subjective, not an advertisement and does not serve as a guide to purchase. You should consult an expert before buying.
Before digital devices were invented, libraries were the place where people got the information they needed for centuries. With the massive spread of the internet, they are no longer as popular as they used to be, as now almost any information can be found online. Nevertheless, large libraries of national importance have not completely lost their relevance. They bear witness to the rich cultural component of the country and many book lovers come to libraries to see with their own eyes the first editions of world-famous works. In this case, libraries play the role of museums of sorts. In addition, printed encyclopedias, reference books, textbooks, and similar books serve as a standard of knowledge when in doubt which of the vast amount of information sources on the Internet to trust. Remember that not all publications in the world have been digitized, and if you need to find some really rare and important knowledge you should go to a library.
There are almost 570 thousand libraries on the planet, and hundreds of them are unique in one way or another. Our selection today includes the ten largest, astounding in their sheer size and the number of titles they contain.
The largest libraries in the world
|Nomination||place||Title||Number of books|
|The largest libraries in the world||10||National Library of France||15 million.|
|9||National Library of China||31 MLN.|
|8||Royal Library of Denmark||33 MLN.|
|7||National Parliamentary Library of Japan||36 MLN.|
|6||Russian National Library||38 MLN.|
|5||Russian National Library||47 MILLION.|
|4||Library and Archives of Canada||48 MILLION.|
|3||New York Public Library||53MLN.|
|2||British Library||150 MLN.|
|1||The Library of Congress||168 MILLION.|
National Library of France
One of Europe’s oldest libraries, it was founded in the 14th century by King Charles V the Wise. Even then, the collection contained over 1,200 manuscripts. The first library catalog was created in the early 17th century, and after the French Revolution it was nationalized. Since 1988, on the initiative of President François Mitterrand, the library was moved to new high-rise buildings in the 13th arrondissement of Paris… Now it has a collection of about 14 million books. In addition, it contains about 250,000 valuable manuscripts, as well as a large number of photographs and engravings. Attendance – more than 1.3 million people a year. The National Library serves Parisians not only for reading, but also as a center for exhibitions, conferences and other cultural events. It also supports a research project to develop machine translation and speech recognition.
The new library complex consists of four 79-meter-high buildings shaped like open books. These modern 18-story structures were designed by French eco-tech architect Dominique Perrault. In addition to the towers on the banks of the Seine, the Bibliothèque nationale de France includes the historic building on rue Richelieu, which is under renovation until 2020.
National Library of China
The National Library of China began its existence in the early 20th century. It was founded by the Qing dynasty rulers as a library for an educational institution called the Metropolitan Teachers’ Chamber. Soon after the Xinhai Revolution, the library was taken over by the Ministry of Education and acquired national status in 1928. In 2004, it was decided to build a new library building and construction continued until 2008, costing the Chinese authorities $180 million.
The largest library in China and Asia has three buildings with a total floor space of 250,000 square meters. Its holdings include more than 31 million volumes in 115 languages. The collection includes, among other things, 270,000 ancient Chinese books, ancient maps, priceless ancient manuscripts found in the early Buddhist temple cave Mogao and samples of writing on bones and turtle shells. Open 365 days a year, each day it receives about 12,000 visitors. Each year it serves over 5.2 million readers.
Royal Library of Denmark
The largest library in Scandinavia was built by King Frederick III in the mid-17th century. Since 1793, it has been in the public domain, with access open to all comers. In 1989 it was merged with the collections of the University Library of Copenhagen, 16 years later it added to the collections of the Library of Medicine and Science and, three years later, the collections of the National Archives of Folklore. Today the Royal Library is situated on the island of Slotsholmen in a very modern building of black granite and glass, called the “Black Diamond”. It also includes three ancient university buildings.
It contains 33 million volumes, including almost all books printed in Denmark since the 17th century, rare foreign publications, a large number of historical documents, medieval manuscripts, and much more. Gutenberg’s Bible, manuscripts by Martin Luther, and the original works of Hans Christian Andersen are considered the most unique of its treasures. The building’s interior is designed in a modern style, and several elevators and escalators operate for the convenience of visitors.
National Parliamentary Library of Japan
The National Parliamentary Library in the Land of the Rising Sun was established in 1948 through the merger of the Imperial Library and the two libraries of the Japanese Diet. It was originally the seat of the government guesthouse, Akasaka Palace. Later a building was built for it in the Nagatacho district of Tokyo. Since 2002, it added a children’s literature department containing up to 400,000 volumes, and a couple of years later it underwent a major reconstruction in order to modernize it and improve its services to its readers.
It is an invaluable repository of Japanese literary heritage, housing practically all books and any other publications ever published in Japan. It also has a large collection of foreign literature. In total the collection contains almost 36 million items, which also includes microfilms, old maps, historical documents. Nowadays the transfer of materials into electronic form is actively carried out.
The Russian National Library
The Russian National Library is one of the first in Eastern Europe. It was built in the middle of 18th century by order of Empress Catherine II for public education. The author of the design of the building in the classical style was the architect Yegor Sokolov. Already then, all citizens, regardless of social status, had access to it. The stock contained not only all Russian-language publications, but also books in the languages of other nationalities of Russia. Since 1810 the Emperor Alexander I approved the regulation that obliged to bring to the library two copies of each new printed matter. In 1930, the enthusiasts made an important reform that divided the publications into categories, from fiction to medical and technical literature, and created a separate reading room for each department. The quality of cataloguing and customer service was also greatly improved. Since 1949 the national library expanded with the addition of the former Institute for Noble Maidens. During the Second World War, despite the blockade which led to power cuts and a shortage of fuel, the staff managed to preserve most of the library’s holdings.
Nowadays the building of the library, along with other architectural monuments, is considered to be an important part of the historical heritage of St. Petersburg. Its funds contain 38 million printed books, of which 400 thousand ancient manuscripts. Among the most valuable masterpieces that are in storage: fragments of the famous Sinai Codex, Laurentian Chronicle and the Gospel of Ostromir, dating back to the XI century AD. It also has a collection of Eastern and Western European manuscripts.
Russian State Library
The State Library of Russia has existed since 1862, being established on the basis of museums, it soon became the most important depository of cultural heritage. After the capital of the state was moved to Moscow, it was considered the main institution in the country, and a little later got the official status of the institution of republican significance. In the 1940s there was an active book exchange with foreign countries, thanks to which a large number of new publications, mostly in English, were added to the holdings. Today it is the largest library in all of continental Europe.
Within its walls there are more than 47 million items categorized into different items. Some of them are especially rare and valuable. In particular, it has such unique items as the Khitrovo Gospel dating from the 15th century, the 11th century Archangel Gospel, ancient Slavonic manuscripts, books from the Romanovs’ personal collection, 18th century Russian periodicals, Persian poetry collections and much more. There are 36 halls in the Russian State Library for reading, with a total capacity of more than 1,500 visitors. Approximately 12.6 million people use its services each year.
Library and Archives Canada
The National Library of Canada has been in existence since 1953 and was merged with the National Archives of Canada by a parliamentary decree in 2004. A key part of the country’s cultural heritage, it is located in Ottawa and spans five stories and is considered a historic treasure. The library has a staff of more than 1,100.
The library collection contains 48 million items, the main ones being books (about 20 million), important documents and all newspapers, magazines and even comic books published in the country. There are also valuable artifacts such as the personal diaries of famous people, old maps and Native writing samples. In addition, there is a special section with works of art. Digital content spans more than a petabyte of information and is continually growing, with new electronic literature being added.
New York Public Library
The New York library is the undisputed leader in the number of visitors – every year it serves up to 18 million people. The institution was founded in the early 20th century on the basis of the private collection of philanthropist James Lenox and the holdings of millionaire John Astor. Construction of the luxurious building, located on Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan Island, took eight years. The building is remarkable not only for its striking architecture and sculptures of lions at the entrance, but also for the unique interior decoration. The New York Public Library boasts a main reading room measuring up to 2,000 square feet with a 16-foot ceiling.
It has a collection of some 53 million items, including 14 million books. Preserves publications in 370 different languages and dialects around the world and adds thousands of new items each week. Divided into 87 units, including entire separate units for people with disabilities. With state-of-the-art technology and highly trained staff, it takes just minutes to find any requested edition. The library collection possesses a significant number of rarities, the most important of which are Thomas Jefferson’s draft and the Gutenberg Bible.
One of the richest libraries in the world, it long existed as a department of the British Museum. Since 1972, it has been legally separated from the museum, but it was still housed in the same building as before. A separate building was not built for it until 1997 by order of the British Parliament. Despite the availability of an abundance of information electronically, the library still draws about 16,000 readers daily.
Huge collections, with 150 million items now in existence, are always being added to. Each year the collection grows by three million items stored, mostly new printed matter. There are about 14 million books and a large number of manuscripts in the collection, some dating back to two thousand years B.C. Particularly rare exhibits include manuscripts by Da Vinci, a Buddhist Diamond Sutra from the 3rd century A.D.je., pages of the Codex Sinaiticus, the original manuscript of the epic Boevulfus, and the world’s first printed map of the New World.
1st place – U.S. Library of Congress
The largest library in the world is designed, as its name implies, primarily to serve the needs of government officials, but its services are also frequently used by researchers, educational institutions and various private companies. The Library of Congress was established in 1800 on the personal orders of John Adams, the second U.S. president. The original collection contained less than a thousand books. Apart from the president and the vice president, only the American government had access to them: the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, that is, the U.S. Congress. After a fire in 1814, it was renovated with Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. Another fire soon followed, costing the Washington, D.C., authorities $170,000, a huge sum at the time. When the reconstruction was completed, the library was allowed to be used not only by politicians, but also by prominent journalists, scholars, and writers. National status has been conferred since 1930.
Its universal and comprehensive holdings number more than 168 million items, including some 30 million books, 50 million manuscripts, and an immense number of photos, videos, and sound recordings. There are 18 reading rooms that can accommodate nearly 1,500 visitors at a time. Today, access to its holdings is still limited, so despite this enormous amount of materials, its services are used on average by no more than 1.7 million people a year.