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The Top 10 Biggest Libraries in the World

1. The Danish Royal Library The Royal Danish Library is Denmark’s national library, the University of Copenhagen’s library,…
The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

  • Libraries range from small community libraries open a few hours a week to large ones open 24/7.
  • Which are the world’s largest and most impressive libraries by catalog size? A library with lots of space isn’t very useful if it only has a few books.

1. The Danish Royal Library

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

The Royal Danish Library is Denmark’s national library, the University of Copenhagen’s library, and the largest in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and their regions).

It houses 30.2 million items, including a 1350 manuscript by Jacob van Maerlant and the First World Atlas. The library has nearly all printed Danish works since 1482, including the first Danish book. It has been a legal deposit library since 1697 and now includes over 500 terabytes of electronic publications, including Dutch internet archives.


2. The National Library of China

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

With nearly 1.4 billion people, China naturally hosts one of the world’s largest libraries. The National Library of China is Asia’s biggest, containing over 33.78 million items. Since 1916, it has legally stored copies of domestic publications. It houses the largest collections of Chinese literature and historical documents globally.


3. National Diet Library

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

Like the Library of Congress in the United States, Japan’s National Diet Library was founded in 1948 to support members of the National Diet in their studies and research. It houses about 35.6 million items, including significant collections of Japanese political history documents, maps, rare books from the Edo and Chinese Ch’ing Dynasties, and materials on Science and Technology.

The library’s entire collection can be searched through an Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), and people from abroad can borrow materials through interlibrary loans. Japan’s only national library has two main locations in Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as several branches across Japan. It’s open to the public, and anyone 18 years or older can become a member by applying via mail or in person.


4. National Library of Russia

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

Russia appears twice on the list of largest libraries. The National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg, founded by Empress Catherine the Great in 1795, is the nation’s oldest public library. It holds over 36.5 million items and started a large-scale effort to digitize its collection in the late 20th century. Together with the Russian State Library, it offers around 80,000 electronic titles.


5. Bibliotheque Nationale de France

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

The National Library of France has a captivating history dating back to 1368. It moved to various locations before settling in its current Paris location in 1996. Interestingly, WiFi was banned at the library in 2008 in favor of ethernet, but by 2021, visitors could use “BNF WiFi” during their visits.

The National Library of France holds over 40 million items, attracting those hungry for knowledge. Visitors can join guided tours at its branches, ensuring accessibility for all. The Reference Library welcomes anyone over 16 to explore its extensive collection in a friendly atmosphere.


6. Russian State Library

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

In Moscow, the Russian State Library holds over 43 million items, stretching across 275 kilometers of shelves. Established in 1862 and reorganized by Vladimir Lenin, it is Russia’s national book depository. Originally, it included books seized from public libraries. The library’s reading rooms are accessible to all adults, whether local or visiting from elsewhere.


7. New York Public Library

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

The New York Public Library has appeared in movies and books like “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969), “Ghostbusters” (1984), “Sex and the City” (2008), and Lynne Schwartz’s “The Writing on the Wall” (2005). It holds nearly 52 million items and serves 17 million patrons at 92 locations each year. The library is part of the Google Books Library Project, offering access to its digital collection. Services include ASK NYPL, a 24/7 phone, chat, and email reference service. It hosts free events, exhibitions, computer classes, and ESL lessons.


8. Library and Archives Canada

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

Library and Archives Canada was created in 2004 by merging the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada, which started in 1953. Despite being young, it ranks as the world’s third-largest library, with over 54 million items.

Australia’s oldest known printed document is a July 30, 1796 playbill, found in a 150-year-old scrapbook by a rare book librarian at Library and Archives Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister presented it to the Australian people in 2007. Located in Ottawa, this library offers various services and opening hours. Discover more about Canada beyond maple syrup and cold winters.


9. British Library

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

The British Library houses an incredible 150 million items and continues to grow. As a legal deposit library for the UK and Ireland, it receives copies of every publication and adds 3 million new items annually from around the world.

Access is public access with a Reader Pass available from the library. Over 16,000 people visit either in person or online daily. Notable items include the Magna Carta, Beatles manuscripts, and Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia Trial Speech recording.

To access MARC records via Z39.50 search, email metadata@bl.uk with a written agreement to their terms. Don’t miss exploring this treasure trove next time you’re in London!


10. Library of Congress

The Top 10 Biggest Libraries In The World

With its vast collection of over 160 million items and an annual budget exceeding US$600 million, the Library of Congress is the largest library globally. Originally established for Congress, it’s also open to researchers with a Reader Identification Card, though books must be used on-site.

The library dates back to 1800 and is located in three historic buildings in Washington, D.C. — the Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison Memorial Buildings. After being burned by the British in 1814, its collection was restored by purchasing Thomas Jefferson’s library of 6,487 books.

Libraries across the U.S. can borrow items through interlibrary loans, highlighting the Library of Congress’ global influence. It’s renowned for providing high-quality MARC records via Z39.50, enriching collections worldwide.

Notable holdings include the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and one of only three perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible. The Library of Congress is a must-visit in Washington, D.C., offering free guided tours.


Conclusion

the world’s top 10 biggest libraries are remarkable institutions that house vast collections of knowledge and cultural treasures. From the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., with its extensive holdings and historical significance, to the British Library in London, known for its legal deposit collection and iconic manuscripts, these libraries serve as beacons of learning and research. Each library on the list, including the National Library of China, the New York Public Library, and others, contributes uniquely to global scholarship and preserves humanity’s intellectual heritage. Whether you’re exploring ancient manuscripts, accessing rare books, or conducting cutting-edge research, these libraries offer invaluable resources and inspire curiosity and discovery on a global scale.


FAQs

Q1: What is the largest library in the world?

Ans: The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is considered the largest library globally, with a collection exceeding 160 million items.

Q2: How many items does the Library of Congress have?

Ans: The Library of Congress houses over 160 million items, including books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and more.

Q3: What is unique about the British Library?

Ans: The British Library in London is notable for its legal deposit status, which means it receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland. It holds over 150 million items and features iconic manuscripts like the Magna Carta and the Beatles’ manuscripts.

Q4: Which libraries are famous for their historical collections?

Ans: Libraries like the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris and the Vatican Library in Vatican City are renowned for their centuries-old historical collections.

Q5: Can anyone visit these libraries?

Ans: Yes, many of these libraries are open to the public. Visitors may need a reader pass or identification card to access certain materials.

Q6: Do these libraries offer digital resources?

Ans: Yes, most libraries provide digital archives and online catalogs, allowing remote access to various resources.

Q7: How can researchers benefit from these libraries?

Ans: Researchers can access rare books, manuscripts, specialized collections, and high-quality research materials for academic and professional purposes.

Q8: Are guided tours available at these libraries?

Ans: Many of these libraries offer guided tours to visitors, providing insights into their history, architecture, and notable collections.

Q9: Can libraries lend books internationally?

Ans: Some libraries participate in interlibrary loan programs, which allow international borrowing of books and materials and foster collaboration among institutions.

Q10: Why are these libraries significant globally?

Ans: These libraries serve as cultural institutions, preserving knowledge, promoting research, and contributing to global intellectual exchange and understanding. Their collections are invaluable resources for scholars, students, and the public worldwide.


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