7 libraries you must visit in the UK

The UK is full of world-ranked universities and is home to 26 of the top 200 globally. With innovative teaching methods, students learn from industry leaders and degrees are designed to encourage independent thinking. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge research. At the heart of each university is the library, every student’s office. A space to access resources, absorb new knowledge and gather thoughts. From silent areas to group study rooms, to comfy sofas where you can curl up with a book, the UK is home to some of the most impressive libraries in the world. Here are some of our favourite libraries across the UK.

The British Library, London, England.

A list of must visit libraries would be incomplete without The British Library, the UK’s national library. Located in London, it is one of the largest libraries in the world and is home to over 170 million items. The collections offer a glimpse into literary heritage over the ages, from books to sound recordings and maps to manuscripts, visitors can browse treasures including Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook and the Magna Carta. At the heart of the building is the King’s Library, a tall glass tower which holds the books collected by King George III. The library hosts many free exhibitions and those with a reading pass are known to spend hours at a time in the dedicated reading rooms.

Bodleian Old Library, the University of Oxford.

Bodleian Old Library, the University of Oxford, England.

The Bodleian Old Library is the main research library at the University of Oxford and dates back to 1488, making it is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. As a legal deposit library, it can request a copy of every book published and distributed in the UK. It has three notable reading rooms which have been used by students who would later become world leaders, noble prize winners and famous authors. The library is celebrated for its late gothic architecture as much as its impressive collections. You may recognise the elaborately carved ceiling from scenes in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Students at the university automatically get access to the library, but for members of the public wishing to experience it’s 500-year history first-hand guided tours are available.

The Sir Duncan Rice Library, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Visible from anywhere on campus and much of the city, The Sir Duncan Rice Library is the main academic library at the University of Aberdeen and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. The seven-story building is instantly recognisable due to its cube shape and zebra-like cladding. Designed with sustainability in mind, the library uses solar panels for electricity and harvests rainwater for flushing the toilet. This 21st Century study space has cutting-edge technology and over 1,200 study spaces.

Open to the general public as well as students, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city from the break-out room on the seventh floor, or even find a Zoology Museum on the lower ground floor which is free of charge.

Gladstone's Library, Flintshire.

Gladstone's Library, Flintshire, Wales.

Former UK Prime Minister, William Gladstone, wanted to share his personal library with others, so he founded Gladstone’s Library in 1889. Housed in a Grade I listed building and complete with a residential wing, this is the only library in the UK which allows visitors to stay overnight. The perfect retreat for booklovers, guests can experience the reading rooms by day and night and can even take books to their room. With an extensive literary collection and plenty of events on, the library is well worth a daytrip for non-residents too.

Brotherton Library, the University of Leeds, England.

The most prominent landmark at the University of Leeds is the Parkinson Building, which is known for its 187-foot-tall clock town that can be seen for miles around. This iconic building is the gateway to the university’s oldest library, the Brotherton Library. Upon entering, visitors are transported to the 1930's due to the distinct art deco style. The main reading room is found in a unique circular space, with a domed ceiling supported by 20 strikingly green marble columns. While a student card is needed to enter this library, the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is open to the general public and displays items from the library’s Special Collections, including the original work of the Brontës.

The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

The Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Scotland.

The beauty of Glasgow’s largest public library is undeniable, and it is no surprise The Mitchell Library is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Atop the distinctive copper dome is a bronze statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, who holds an open book in her hand and is affectionally known as Mrs Mitchell. Visitors can climb the dome for some of the city’s most exclusive rooftop views. The library is also home to a theatre which hosts a variety of events, or for those wanting a trip down memory lane, the library has some of the best resources in the world for researching family history.

John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester.

John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester, England.

It would be easy to mistake John Rylands Research Institute and Library for a cathedral. Opened in 1900, this late-Victorian library became part of The University of Manchester in 1972. Often referred to as the ‘cathedral of knowledge’, the library features intricate details throughout, including vaulted ceilings, cloisters and stained-glass windows. The reading room is the centre piece of the building and is a truly magical place to study. Boosting one of the top five university special collections in the world, this library offers limitless research potential for students. Whether you want to make use of the rich collections available, or simply explore the site and pretend you are in a scene from Harry Potter, this library should be on everyone’s must see list.

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