The Biggest Book Collections Across the World – Top 10 Largest Libraries List

Written by Ajla Medanhodzic & edited by kimberlyanneinc

Have you ever needed to double-check some information, or simply wanted some peace and quiet in the company of a good book? Are you curious about the largest and most massive libraries in the world?

The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List
Photo by Min An

Libraries play an important role in society, and this article will help you discover some of the world’s largest libraries and book collections. Some of the libraries mentioned here are based on the number of items in their individual collections while others are based on library network locations or rare and unusual ancient manuscripts.

Although learning has really shifted to the virtual world of online e-books and courses -nothing can replace the ritual of going to the library and purposefully becoming lost among the millions of pages found within!

  • Library of Congress, Washington D.C., USA
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List - Library of Congress United States
Library of Congress

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C., USA is officially the largest library in the world having more than 170 million items. This charming granite and marble building is across the street from the US Capitol.

Even if you don’t live in Washington, a decent part of the library’s book collection has been digitized (ever since the 90s) and can be accessed online.

Some of the interesting items that can be found in this library are Abraham Lincoln’s draft of the Gettysburg address, woodblock prints by Japanese artists, and a 14th-century Persian book of astronomy.

  • Shanghai Library, China
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List - Shanghai Library China
Shanghai Library

Shanghai Library is the headquarter of the library network of 21 public and community libraries named: Shanghai Central Libraries, and it is also the largest public library in China and is conveniently located in downtown Shanghai.

Merged with the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information, the Shanghai Library is home to more than 50 million items ranging from ancient books, genealogy records, original patents, and audio-video materials.

  • Library and Archives Canada
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List - Library and Archives Canada
Library and Archives Canada

Also called LAC, this library in Ottawa is a main source of information for all Canadians wishing to get a better understanding of their heritage, family history, and their individual collective identity.

Library Archives Canada is the world’s fifth-largest library, with a 250-kilometer-long collection of private and government-related written records and documents.

  • London’s British Library
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List - London's British Library
Lond’s British Library

The British Library in London is the national library of the United Kingdom housing over 150 million items such as books, maps, magazines, journals, and audio material.

For a long time, London’s British Library was located within the main building of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. This extraordinary library holds rare artifacts such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook, Chopin’s musical scores, and preserved Chinese oracle bones – all of which can still be seen today!

  • New York Public Library
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List - New York Public Library
Rose Reading Room, New York Public Library

As one of their ads puts it, New York Public Library is a free provider of information and education for the people of New York and those who are outside of New York City.  

The New York Public Library is a public library system that was first developed in the late 19th century. With more than 90 locations across New York City and almost 50 million items; when it comes to official ranking, New York Public Library is the fourth largest library in the entire world.

The main building of the NYPL is called the Schwarzman building. The Schwarzman building is famous for its renowned historical document collection. The exterior of the whole library is built of beautiful Vermont marble making the New York Public Library one of the greatest and most majestic marble structures in the United States.

  • Royal Danish Library
The Black Diamond Denmark Royal Danish Library Copenhagen The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List
Inside the Black Diamond Building, Royal Libary Denmark

As of 2017, the Royal Library in Denmark had a total collection of 36,975,069 physical books and 2,438,978 electronic books.

Located in Copenhagen and Aarhus, the Royal Danish Library is one of the absolute largest libraries in the Nordic countries. The Royal Danish Library serves as the university library for the University of Copenhagen as well as the National Library of Denmark.

The Royal Danish Library was established in 1648 and holds large collections of historical items, documents, manuscripts, and of course the occasional Danish cartoon art.

It was founded by the Danes and Norwegian King Frederick III, who played a significant role in donating an impressive collection of European works to this library.

By way of legal deposit, books, journals, newspapers, pamphlets, and corporate publications as well as manuscripts and archives, maps, prints and photos, music scores, folkways, and popular tradition documentation, and four annual electronic copies of the Danish Internet are all accepted.

  • National Library of France
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List - The National Library of France
National Library of France

The National Library of France is not only one of the oldest libraries in the world but also one of the largest public research libraries. It is situated in Paris on the left bank of the Seine and features four side towers that are a combined height of 79 meters.

The National Library of France has been responsible for the protection of royal collections dating back to the late Middle Ages. The four corner towers each have a symbolic name, such as the Tower of Time and the Tower of Numbers.

The operations of the library are spread out throughout seven distinct locations in France, with the library Francois Mitterrand serving as the primary location.

  • Harvard Library
Harvard Library University Harvard United States The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List
Harvard – The Largest University Library in the World

Harvard Library is almost 400 years old, making it the oldest library system in the USA, holding nearly 400 million manuscripts and 20 million volumes of a wide range of books on many different subjects.

It also has the third-largest book collection in the United States, right after the Library of Congress and Boston Public Library.

Its central library is called The Harry Elkins Widener building, built as a memorial to a student who was in Harvard’s class of 1907.

Along with the libraries belonging to universities such as Columbia or Princeton, Harvard is connected with the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium, which means there are over 90 million books available to the Harvard library members.

  • National Library of Spain
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List National Library of Spain, Madrid
National Libary of Spain

Being the largest library in the Spanish-speaking world, The National Library of Spain stores copies of all the books published in that country and has a notable collection of manuscripts, drawings, illustrations, photographs, and other art forms.

Not only is it a library, but also a museum that hosts frequent exhibitions and has tons of cultural activities being held in the Libraries’ Exhibition Rooms.

The National Library of Spain was founded in the early 18th century as the Palace Public Library, and, similar to Canada’s LAC, it is also focused on preserving and identifying information about Spain’s written heritage and culture.

  • Berlin State Library
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List Berlin State Library Germany
Berlin State Libary

Designed by architect Hans Sharoun, Berlin State Library is one of the biggest and most famous modern libraries in Europe. The Berlin State Library also is part of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The Berlin State Library is open Monday-Saturday, approximately 70 hours every week.  The Berlin State Library houses a gigantic collection of over 11 million books that increases by one hundred thousand books every year. This unique and amazing German library is a center of national and international literature, focusing on social sciences and humanities.

This list of the largest libraries in the world is just a glimpse of the biggest book collections.

There are many more ginormous libraries to be discovered and visited, such as the library collections in Kyiv, Tokyo, Stockholm, Peking, St. Petersburg, and many others.

What they all have in common are the size of (physical and digital) bookshelves and manuscripts, as well as the determination to preserve their local and global written treasures for the current and future generations.

The Biggest Book Collections Across the World - Top 10 Largest Libraries List
The Biggest Book Collections Across the World – Top 10 Largest Libraries List by Ajla Medanhodzic

Ajla is interested in various forms of storytelling. She writes screenplays, articles, reviews, and short stories.

Sources:

https://ru.usembassy.gov/explore-worlds-biggest-library-right-now-video/

https://librarytechnology.org/library/30222

https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx

https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-british-library

https://arquitecturaviva.com/works/biblioteca-nacional-de-francia-2

https://www.cometoparis.com/paris-guide/paris-monuments/national-library-of-france-s916

https://library.harvard.edu/libraries/widener/

https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/architectural-facts/a3028-10-things-you-did-not-know-about-the-new-york-public-library/

https://www.cometoparis.com/paris-guide/paris-monuments/national-library-of-france-s916

https://www.enforex.com/students/calendar-activities/national-library-spain.html

https://staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/en/about-the-library/zahlen-und-fakten

https://ann-tran.com/2019/09/top-15-world-libraries-by-collection-size/

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