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The 25 Best University Libraries in the World

Daniel Campos

This post is also available in: Spanish Italian German French

Along the ages, some universities thought they would make a bold statement and build fascinating libraries. Some of them have magnificent, historic interiors, whilst others are brand new and modern. Nevertheless, they’re all amazing. Take a look at what we think are the 25 best university libraries in the world!

1. St. John’s College Old Library, University of Cambridge

 

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Cambridge University’s oldest library is no longer used as such, but is still open on weekdays for College members and guests. The Old Library’s Rare Books Reading Room is where the College’s special collections are kept.

2. Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University

 

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Built in 1931, the Sterling Memorial Library is the focal point of Yale University’s campus. The library has several significant materials in its possession, but one peculiar collection is Osama bin Laden’s audio library.

3. The George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University

 

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Formerly known as the Library of the Peabody Institute, this library is without a doubt one of the world’s most impressive. Although it’s the research library of The Johns Hopkins University, the building is open to the general public. This is to fulfill the goal of Mr. Peabody himself, who requested it be “for the free use of all persons who desire to consult it”.

4. Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, University of Chicago

 

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The Joe and Rika Mansueto is the University of Chicago’s latest library. The university’s previous library was running out of space, so they built this magnificent dome to house up to 3.5 million volumes.

5. Geisel Library, University of California San Diego

 

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This library is named after Dr. Seuss. Theodor Seuss Geisel lived in La Jolla and made huge contributions to the University of California’s library. Many of the original drawings, sketches, and other materials of the Dr. Seuss Collection are held here at the Geisel Library.

6. Uris Library, Cornell University

 

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The A.D. White Reading Room within the Uris Library of the Cornell University is quite a sight. The library holds the only privately owned copy of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, as well as several more historic pieces, such as pamphlets from the French Revolution and letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.

7. Sainte-Geneviève Library, Paris

 

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This Parisian library inherited the entire collection of the Abbey of St. Genevieve, and now contains around 2 million documents. Sainte Geneviève is a university library, but is also open to the public.

8. The Royal Library, Copenhagen

 

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The largest of libraries in the Nordic countries, The Royal Library serves as the National Library of Denmark, as well as the main library for the University of Copenhagen. The library houses all works printed in Denmark since the 17th century, and even holds the first Danish book ever, printed in 1482.

9. Tama Art University Library, Tokyo

 

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This private university’s library can pride itself on being designed by the 2013 Prizker Prize winner, Toyo Ito. Add that to the fact that Tama Art is an Arts university, and you can expect some really special characteristic features everywhere you go in the library.

10. Trinity College Library, University of Dublin

 

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Trinity College’s Old Library is the largest library in Ireland. Here is where the original Book of Kells is kept. The library is also entitled to a copy of all works published in Ireland, so its collection is ever-growing. The Long Room is one of the world’s most impressive library rooms, and is a must-see for everyone!

11. Musashino Art University Library, Tokyo

 

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Japanese art schools definitely take their library designs seriously. Take a look at Musashino Art University Library, which is also designed by a famous architect, Sou Fujimoto. The library is shaped like a spiral and is meant to form a new relation between its users and the books.

12. TU Delft Library, Delft University of Technology

 

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Delft’s University of Technology has a pretty cool library. The building is covered in grass, and is topped by a steel cone that gives it its unique shape.

13. IKMZ, Brandenburg University of Technology

 

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The IKMZ is one of Germany’s newest libraries. Designed by award-winning Herzog & de Meuron, the library opened in 2004 and was inspired by a giant amoeba shape that would flow with the buildings surroundings.

14. James B. Hunt Jr. Library, North Carolina State University

 

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NSCU’s second main library is 31% built from recycled content and relies on renewable energies, which largely contributes to NSCU’s sustainability programme. For the game developers out there, this library also has a Game Lab, dedicated to the study of digital games… and for gaming too!

15. Biblioteca Joanina, University of Coimbra

 

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The Joanina Library in Coimbra is one of the world’s most remarkable libraries. Built in the 18th century, its interior walls are covered by gilded or painted exotic wood shelves. The library is the old university’s most visited building and a Portuguese national monument.

16. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

 

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Home to one of the few Gutenberg Bibles remaining, as well as Shakespeare’s First Folio, the Bodleian Library is the UK’s second largest library after the British Library. The Radcliffe Camera is one the city’s most recognisable monuments, and some of the library’s buildings were even used for the Harry Potter films.

17. Wren Library, University of Cambridge

 

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Trinity College’s library consists of a single, large room next to Neville’s Court. Completed in 1695, the library is home to Isaac Newton’s first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, as well as his personal notebook. The Wren Library also holds several other notably rare books and manuscripts.

18. Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

 

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The second Yale University library on our list, Beinecke Library is the university’s principal repository for archives, early manuscripts and rare books. The library houses another example of the Gutenberg Bible, as well as several collections from famous authors, such as Charles Dickens, Erasmus, Rudyard Kipling, Goethe, and many others.

19. Klarchek Information Commons, Loyola University, Chicago

 

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Sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan, the KIC has one of the best views a library can ask for. Overlooking the calm lake, students can study and work in this new-age library, where everything is digital.

20. Gheorghe Asachi Technical University Library, Technical University of Iasi

 

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Once voted the “Most Beautiful Library in the World”, the Gh. Asachi Library has over a million volumes in its collections. Judging by its interior, one can see why it was so highly rated.

21. Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen

 

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The most recent of the University of Aberdeen’s libraries was opened in 2012 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The modern library has a striking cubical appearance from the outside, yet flows with elliptical plans on the inside.

22. Philological Library, Free University of Berlin

 

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Designed by world-renowned architect Norman Foster, the Philological Library of Berlin has the shape of a human brain.

23. Codrington Library, University of Oxford

 

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This is the second University of Oxford library on our list. The Codrington Library is the library of the All Souls College. It has been used by the college’s scholars since 1751, and like the Bodleian Library, holds several manuscripts and early printed books.

24. Warsaw University Library

How many libraries can say that they have a botanical garden on their roof? Well, not only can this library say so, it can also say it has one of Europe’s largest roof gardens! Best of all, the library isn’t restricted to just students; it’s also open to the general public.

25. Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania

 

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Once considered an embarrassment to the University of Pennsylvania, the Fisher Fine Arts Library only got its deserved appreciation half a century after it was built. Nowadays, it’s widely acknowledged as one of the greatest creation of 19-century America.

Bonus! Linderman Library, Lehigh University, Bethlehem

 

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We wanted to add one more to our list, simply because the Linderman Library’s rotunda is one the world’s coolest library spaces out there. The library’s rare book collection has several notable collections, amongst which is Darwin’s Origins of Species!


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What’s your favourite library in Europe? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.

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