The libraries of our world are much more important than many of us realize since they are used to house some of the most incredible pieces of our history. Fortunately, even though books are definitely not as popular as they once were, libraries are still receiving and storing incredible books on their shelves on a regular basis. In order to qualify for a spot in our top 19 regarding the world’s largest libraries, these establishments would have to contain at least 15 million items since 2008. If you are curious about which cities boast the absolute largest libraries in the world, then we invite you to keep on reading.
- 19. Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine
- 18. Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences
- 17. Harvard University Library
- 16. National Library of Sweden
- 15. New York State Library
- 14. Library and Archives Canada
- 13. Boston Public Library
- 12. Berlin State Library
- 11. German National Library
- 10. Biblioteca Nacional de España
- 9. Royal Danish Library
- 8. National Library of France
- 7. National Library of China
- 6. National Diet Library
- 5. National Library of Russia
- 4. Russian State Library
- 3. New York Public Library
- 2. Library of Congress
- 1. British Library
19. Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine
As the 20th largest library in the world, the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine was established in 1918 and features a very impressive collection of 15 million unique items. These include various books, fine art materials, manuscripts, magazines, incunabula, newspapers, rare books and an outstanding collection of Slavic writing examples. There is also a very special collection regarding all of the Presidents of Ukraine, and since the library is also a very important scientific center of the country, it houses the archives of the National Academy of Sciences.
18. Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences
This Russian library is based in the city of Saint Petersburg and was founded in 1714 at the initiative of Peter the Great. With a collection of 15 million items, this library is undoubtedly one of the most important ones in the vast country of Russia. Unfortunately, in 1998, the library caught fire and lost a great part of its collection to the flames. As part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, this establishment houses and protects various important collections that are linked to various Russian academic institutions.
17. Harvard University Library
As the largest private library in the world, the Harvard University Library contains a vast collection of 16.6 million book volumes. Found in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the institution is branched out into 73 separate divisions and is under the supervision of Sarah Thomas as of 2013. As one of the most important libraries in the US, the Harvard University Library features several separate divisions such as the Harvard University Archives, the Access Services, the Office for Scholarly Communication and Program Management.
16. National Library of Sweden
Also known as the Royal Library, the National Library of Sweden can be found in Stockholm and founded in 1661. As one of the oldest and largest libraries in the world, this particular institution also serves researching purposes, which is why it includes various collections that were written in other languages other than Swedish. Speaking of its collections, the National Library of Sweden houses about 18 million volumes as well as 7 million hours of audio and visual material.
15. New York State Library
The New York State Library is in direct connection with other important establishments in New York such as the New York State Archives and New York State Museum, both of which operate from within the same Cultural Education Center alongside the library itself. As a very important part of the New York State Education Department, this library flaunts over 20 million items in its collection, which makes it one of the largest libraries in the world. Founded in 1818, the New York State Library was opened officially in 1855.
14. Library and Archives Canada
One of the newer libraries, the Library and Archives Canada was founded in 2004 with the purpose of collecting, preserving and displaying Canada’s most important documents. This institution can be found in Ottawa and boasts with a collection of about 20 million books, newspapers, microfilms, posters and many other examples of written, recorded, sketched or photographed information.
13. Boston Public Library
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, the Boston Public Library was established in 1848. With a collection o 22.4 million books and audiovisual examples, this institution is undoubtedly one of the most important of its kind in the USA, more so since it is also the Library for the Commonwealth. The people that were mainly responsible for the establishment of this amazing library are George Ticknor, Alexandre Vattemare, Josiah Quincy, Jr. and Edward Everett, all of whom contributed with their own ideas or money in order to make this institution a reality.
12. Berlin State Library
Operating under the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the Berlin State Library is a very important centre for research and one of the largest libraries in Europe presently. As with most reputable European libraries, this one was founded a long time ago, in 1661 more specifically, and it now flaunts a collection of 23 million items out of which 12.3 million are books.
11. German National Library
As its name suggests, the German National Library is the main archival and bibliographic core of Germany. With a massive collection of 24 million items in 2009, this exceptional institution is tasked with the collection and archival of all German publications since 1913, but it also houses various translations and foreign writings about the country. Since it is a reference library, the items housed within the German National Library can only be analyzed in the reading rooms exclusively, and users need to be at least 18 old.
10. Biblioteca Nacional de España
The National Library of Spain is the absolute largest of its kind in the country, and it can be found within the city of Madrid. The institution was established in 1712 by King Philip V and was named Palace Public Library. During those days, each and every book that was published in Spain was copied and submitted to the library. The institution was renamed Biblioteca Nacional in 1836 when it went became the property of the Ministry of Governance. Its collection includes no less than 25 million items, out of which 15 million are books.
9. Royal Danish Library
The national library of Denmark also serves as the University of Copenhagen’s library, which means that it can be found in the city of Copenhagen. Founded in 1648, this library boasts a collection of 30 million items, but it also houses and protects some very significant historical items that date all the way back to the 17th century. The first Danish book that was printed in 1482 can be found somewhere on the shelves of the Royal Danish Library.
8. National Library of France
France’s National Library was established in 1461 as the Royal Library, but its current form as BnF was founded in 1792. Located in the capital city of Paris, this library contains nearly everything that was ever published in France. The institution also features its own digital library called “Gallica”, which contains approximately 1.6 million documents and 320,000 books. The entire collection of the National Library of France comprises 31 million items, out of which 14 million are books and 5,000 are Greek manuscripts.
7. National Library of China
Another huge and very important library is the National Library of China, of course. This library was founded in 1909 and is located in Beijing, China, but what’s truly impressive about it is the fact that it houses one of the world’s most extensive collections of Chinese literature and historically significant documents. With over 31 million volumes in its archives, the National Library of China boasts about 270,000 ancient books as well as 1,6 million classic thread-bound Chinese books.
6. National Diet Library
As Japan’s only national library, the National Diet Library has many things in common with the Library of Congress in the USA, since both are tasked with various research projects regarding issues of public policy. Founded in 1948, the National Diet Library features 27 branches and includes a massive collection of 35.6 million items. The library serves the general public, which means that it can be accessed by Japanese citizens that are at least 18 years old.
5. National Library of Russia
The city of St Petersburg is home to the National Library of Russia, which happens to be the first and the oldest national library in Russia. The institution also functions as the All-Russian Information, Research and Cultural Center, and it was founded in 1795 by Catherine the Great. As such, the library contains the female leader’s personal collection as well as the collection of the famous Voltaire. Overall, the National Library of Russia manages 36.5 million items, which is quite a lot.
4. Russian State Library
The last Russian library on our list is the Russian State Library, which can be found in Moscow. Established in 1862, the library was known as the V. I. Lenin State Library of the USSR from 1925 until 1994, when it received its present name. With a collection that surpasses 44.4 million items, this library houses 17 million books underneath its roof, as well as 150,000 maps and 150,000 sound records and music scores.
3. New York Public Library
The Public Library of New York was founded in 1895 and is the second largest of its kind in the USA. With a massive collection of 53.1 million items, this independent, non-profit organization boasts 87 branches that feature a generous amount of collections available to the general public. Some of these branches can be found in very important areas of New York City such as Staten Island, The Bronx and Manhattan.
2. Library of Congress
The United States Congress is being served directly by the Library of Congress in all things that concern research. However, this is also the default main library of the United States, and for good reason, since it boasts a mind-boggling collection of 150 million items. As the oldest federal cultural institution in the country, the Library of Congress was founded in 1800, and even though it saw its share of fires over the years, it is still standing proudly as a symbol of universal knowledge.
1. British Library
And the absolute largest library in the world is none other than the British Library, which was founded in 1753 in London. This library boasts 150 million items in total, out of which 13 million alone are books. Since it is a legal deposit library, the British Library houses and archives each and every book that is being published in England or in Ireland. Even though it used to be an intricate part of the British Museum, the British Library separated from the museum in 1973 and was operating from within its own building by 1997.