Best Libraries in London

Whether you are living and studying in London or want to visit this wonderful and interesting city, exploring some of the best libraries in London is an experience on its own. London is known for its beautiful and majestic libraries, stacked with books and creativity and as one of the most literary cities in the world, students love it here.

London is a vibrant and cultural city filled with art and exquisite architecture, so simply taking a walk around it fills you with awe. So, if you’re looking for study spaces or simply beautiful attractions, London’s libraries are a must-visit. In this article, we have only selected ten, but the list goes on and on.

Here are some of the best libraries in London:

1. The British Library

The British Library is one of the top visiting choices for tourists in London but it is also a prominent choice among students wishing to enjoy an ideal atmosphere of quiet study. If you are a student wishing to use the reading rooms of the British Library, then you will initially need to register for a Reader Pass, which is a process that can begin online, afterwards you will need to show up to the library to provide additional documents.

However, if you are a visitor wishing to see the interior of the library or the way it functions, there are other ways you can access the library such as attend the workshops, discussions, exhibitions, and events hosted by the library. Lastly, registration is not required if you simply want to drink a cup of joe or meet with friends at the café inside the main building.

(If you’re a student, you may also want to go through some of the top student spots in London).

2. The London Library

As one of the world’s greatest lending libraries, the London Library has an outstanding collection of more than 1 million books and an amazing history. The Reading Room of the London Library was opened in 1896 by Virginia Woolf’s father and numerous authors the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad have worked here.

The building, which overlooks St. James’s Square, has majestic book stacks and lovely spaces where members of the library can study or relax in. There are more than one million books dating back from the 1700s to nowadays, exposed beautifully on the 17 miles of shelving. To add to the grandeur, there is also a Writer’s Room inside of the building, which is also one of the most used areas of the library, seating up to 26 people at the time.

3. National Art Library at the V&A

The National Art Library, overlooking the John Madejski Garden at the V&A, has the UK’s most comprehensive public reference collection of literature on the fine and decorative arts. It also contains books, journals, exhibition catalogues, and e-resources among others.

At this library, you can find around one million books, including prints, drawings, paintings, photographs, design, metalwork and sculpture. These valuable collections vary from medieval manuscripts to contemporary books.

There is a Reading Room where students can read up on fine art, design, and other materials. Members of the public are allowed to browse the books quietly.

4. The Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre

Exploring the National Poetry Library at Southbank Centre is free whether you are a poet, student, or you’re simply curious to see what the collection contains. This library is the largest public collection of modern poetry in the world and it was founded by the Arts Council in 1953 and opened by poets T.S. Eliot and Herbert Read.

Here, you may also find a Reading Den for parents and children as well as poems of any subject by the greatest poets. The Poetry Library arrived at the Southbank Centre in 1988, and the opening ceremony was led by poet Seamus Heaney. This library has served as an inspiration to many writers over the years.

5. Bishopsgate Institute Library

Bishopsgate Institute Library, located in the Liverpool Street area, is a centre for adult education providing numerous evening courses related to arts, culture, and physical exercise. The library provides a quiet space where individuals may escape the noise of the city and simply explore.

Since 1895, Bishopsgate Institute has offered an independent meeting place for people who have similar interests and want to learn more about them. This library has space for private study as well, offering a comfortable environment with wifi access. The public enjoys free access on the library’s collections on London, labour, free-thought, protest, LGBTQ history, and more.

6. Wellcome Collection Library

Everyone is welcome at the Wellcome Collection Library –  academics, students, the curious-minded, and anyone wishing to explore the lovely spaces and collections the library has to offer. The library has free wifi, charging points, as well as sufficient desk space. Additionally, students may also make use of library spaces to work in groups with friends or colleagues.

You will be required to sign up as a member in case you want to order materials from the library collection. If you are looking for a quiet place to study or want to explore the shelves, you will simply need to complete a form at the Library desk when you arrive, to obtain a day-visitor card. The library is a leading resource for the study of medical history.

7. The BFI Reuben Library

The BFI Reuben Library has a great collection of books, journals, as well as digitised material related to film, television, and the moving image. The collection is available to everyone, at no cost.

Although you can access most of the items within the day, you will be required to request off-site materials before your visit. The Edwin Fox Foundation Reading Room is also open for those who want to make use of its premises, with a book collection that covers the history of the cinema from its origins to nowadays.

8. Kensington Central Library

The Kensington Central Library is equipped with study areas where you can work on research as well as read quietly. The staff are always friendly and willing to help with what you are looking for as well as answer any questions you might have. It is a wonderful and spacious library offering optimal conditions for students.

In addition to the study spaces where you can read quietly, there are also computers available which you can book a maximum of one hour per day, free of charge. Additionally, Kensington Central Library also has a lecture theatre and a meeting room available for hire by members of the public.

9. Maughan Library

King’s College Maughan Library located in Holborn, as part of the university’s Strand Campus, is one of the majestic London libraries. It is a 19th-century neo-gothic building that has been featured in many films, the likes of The Da Vinci Code.

You will love the grandeur of the library with the huge collection of books all around you on the towering shelves. This library holds more than 750,000 items such as books, journals, CDs, records, DVDs, and more. Since it is a university library, entry is strict; so you will have to take a university tour to visit it in all its beauty.

10. Barbican Library

The Barbican Library, located in the heart of the Barbican Centre, is fully equipped with books, spoken word recordings, DVDs, and CDs available to be loaned to visitors. This library is known for its music listening facilities, practice pianos, study/reading/working spaces, as well as self-service photocopying, and internet access.

To become a member of the library, you have to be living, working, or studying in the City of London or be a regular visitor to the Barbican. This library is truly visit-worthy if you’re looking to study as well as relax and explore.