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Best Libraries in London

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by Maria K (subscribe)
Postgraduate student based in London.
Published January 8th 2017
Surround yourself with the greatest works of literature
When your heart strives for places of history and knowledge, the best thing to do is find yourself in one of London's unique libraries. There, you can be immersed in the atmosphere of quiet intellectual focus and experience the kind of silence buzzing with ideas.
Library is a perfect place to get some peace, surrounding yourself with the great masters of literature. After all, as Hemingway used to say: "There is no friend as loyal as a book." So, if you feel the time has come for some new friendships, here is a list of London's best libraries to start with.

1) British Library

Address: 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
Opening times: Mon-Thu 9:30am-8pm, Fri 9:30am-6pm, Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm

british library
Inside of the British Library (Source: CC BY-SA 2.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=696896)


A former part of the British museum, British Library was finally opened as an independent establishment in 1973. It is the second largest library in the world, offering one of the greatest literature collections. It is a public library, which means it is open to anyone who wishes to use the services. The collection includes well over 150 million items. It was initially started with some 18th-century donations from the Old Royal Library, King's Library, and others.

The British Library is an interesting place to be. It hosts various exhibitions throughout the year; these can be dedicated to anything that relates to literature and printing. Some of the past exhibitions included Alice in the Wonderland display, celebrating the 150th anniversary of book's publication, and a comic book show called 'Art and Anarchy'. The exhibitions are always very well designed and highly engaging, which makes it a great activity for people of any age, including the youngest.

british library
Treasures of British Library Collection (Source: British Library website)


Its permanent collection 'The Treasures of British Library' presents the most precious historical documents stored in the library. These include Magna Carta, Beowulf, Leonardo Da Vinci's original notebook and handwritten lyrics by The Beatles. If you are fascinated with history, this display would most definitely catch your attention.

2) Maughan Library, King's College London

Address: 100-113 Chancery Ln, WC2A 1LR
Opening times: Mon-Sat 8:30am-1am, Sun 8:30 am-12am

Maughan Library
Maughan Library - Window View


The main library of King's College London resides at a beautiful Neo-Gothic building on Chancery Lane, almost next door to the Royal Court of Justice. It was built in the mid-19th century but gained a status of the library in the early 21st, after the building was acquired by the university. The garden in front of the library overlooks the beautiful architectural construction, and can also be used as a peaceful spot to enjoy the view in the company of Confucius, in bronze.

Bronze statue of Confucius in the garden


Inside Maughan Library, you can discover a famous reading room, known as 'the Round Room', which was rumoured to be featured in Harry Potter films as Dumbledore's office. Unfortunately, the myth was officially debunked by the university administration. The library holds a large collection of books (almost 750 000) dedicated to various topics. Maughan Library also holds a collection of rare books, called Foyle Special collection, which includes a famous 1812 British declaration of war to the USA, alongside with a variety of books ranging from 15th century to the present day.

Maughan Library
Round Room


3) National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum

Address: Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL
Opening times: Tue-Thu 10am-5:30pm, Fri 10am-6:30pm, Sun-Mon Closed

national art library
National Art Library (Source: Wikipedia)


The library's resources specialise in art and art history literature. The library is relatively small and is open to public only 5 days a week. The good new is, National Art Library has recently changed its policy from restrictive access to granting public access to anyone who wishes to its the resources. Curious visitors of V&A museum are also allowed to walk in, in case they want to see the inside. Those who seriously consider using the library on a regular basis can fill in a simple registration form and provide any ID to get a membership.

The library has perfect resources for art references. The collection includes art books, auction sales catalogues calligraphies, comic books and many more art-related items. The library would definitely provide the best resources for productive research, which also includes perfect silence and zero distractions, given the strict rules of the library use.

4) British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics
Address: 10 Portugal St, WC2A 2HD
Opening times: 24/7

Library Staircase

In my opinion, this is one of the coolest-looking libraries in London. Unlike the historical Gothic buildings, LSE library is modern, glossy and makes you feel like you are a part of the country's academic future. The famous round staircase leading to the glass dome in the ceiling adds to the atmosphere.

The library presents a great collection of literature on economics, politics, and journalism, as well as an extensive international research collection. It is also quite efficient to use: there are spaces and rooms designed for various purposes, including group work rooms, silent zones and computer halls. You will inevitably spot the students sleeping in bean bags all around the place it's a sign of the exhausting intellectual work going on in this place, not boredom!

To gain access to the library, you can fill in an application form. Be aware, that the place is usually busy, which sometimes makes it hard to find a spot. But once you do, you can enjoy all the facilities of your choice, focus on your work, or simply spend time strolling through the bookshelves spread across the six floors of the library.

5) Senate House Library
Address: Malet St, WC1E 7HU
Opening times: Mon-Thu 9am-8:45pm, Fri 9am-6:15pm, Sat 9:45-5:15pm, Sun Closed

senate house library
Senate House Library Building (Sourse: By stevecadman - www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/56350347/, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6400009)


A part of the University of London, Senate House building located in Bloomsbury is the final library in the top 5. The Art Deco building was finished in 1937 but also refurbished in the early 2000s. This is also the tallest library on the list the building consists of 19 floors, and the library itself takes up 14 of them (4th to 18th).

The collection includes arts, humanities and social sciences books, and grants access to the students and staff of the University of London. The Senate House also holds manuscripts by the famous British, such as poet and artist Thomas Moore or philosopher Herbert Spencer.

senate house library
Senate House Library inside (Sourse: By stevecadman - www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/496739855/, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6400022)
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Why? Best places to see London academic history
Where: Central London
Cost: Free
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