Academic Libraries

These are libraries belonging to academic institutions – colleges, universities and the like. Some older universities, particularly in Europe, have very beautiful library buildings, and most can be visited.




The Bodleian Library, Oxford University, England. Known to Oxford scholars as “Bodley” or simply “the Bod”, it serves as the main research library of the university. The Library occupies a group of five buildings built from the late medieval period (Duke Humfrey's Library, shown in the first photo) to the 1930s (the New Bodleian). Arts End (shown in the foreground of the second photo) was built in 1610-1613 and was the first English instance of book shelving being built along the walls, instead of in bays or lecterns jutting out from the walls. The windows at the end of the second photo are part of another extension done in 1634 known as Seldon End. The Bodliean is one of the oldest and most beautiful academic libraries in the world.


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The Artis Library at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The library of the Royal Zoological Society “Natura Artis Magistra” was founded in 1838, but the current building was designed by architect G.B. Salm in 1868. In 1939 the library was transferred to the City of Amsterdam and became the property of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. The library maintains an extensive reference collection of around 65,000 printed works, 80,000 engravings and broadsheets, 3,000 manuscripts and drawings and 100 paraphernalia in the fields of zoology, including books about taxonomy, evolution, animal psychology and the history, foundations and philosophy of biology.



The Long Room Trinity of College Library in Dublin, Ireland.



Herzog August Bibliothek in Germany.



The Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève in Paris, France started as an abbey library, was reconstituted in the 17th century as a scholarly library, and has evolved into an encyclopedic library for scholars, students, and the general public. The new building was designed by Henri Labrouste and built in 1842-50.



The Library of the Collegium Maius at Jagellonien University in Krakow, Poland, built in 1515.



Vilnius University Library in Lithuania was founded in 1570 and holds a valuable collection of rare publications in its frescoed old halls.



The Wren Library at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. It was designed by Christopher Wren in 1676 and completed in 1695. The library is a single large room built over an open colonnade on the ground floor of Nevile's Court. The book stacks are arranged in rows perpendicular to the walls under the intervals between the windows. At the end of each stack is a fine limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons, and above these are plaster cast busts of notable writers through the ages. The library is credited as being one of the first libraries to be built with large windows to give comfortable light levels to aid readers.



The Library at Queen's College at Oxford University in England. The college has one of the largest (around 100,000 volumes) and most diverse collections of rare books in Oxford. The Upper Library is considered one of the finest rooms in Oxford and has been a focal point for the College ever since its construction at the end of the 17th century. The Upper Library remains as a reading room for students.



The Merton College Library at Oxford University in England. It is one of the earliest libraries in England and the oldest library in the world in continuous daily use. The main collection runs to approximately 70,000 volumes. The oldest part, known as the Upper Library, was built around 1373 by William Humberville and was improved in the 16th century. Large dormer windows were added to the roof to allow more light in, and Thomas Bodley reorganized it in the new Continental style; the old book chests and lecterns were replaced by book shelves — among the first to be used in England — with benches between them. The Upper Library still retains these 16th century fittings. It also contains a number of book chests, some chained books, one of Elizabeth I's Welsh Bibles, a matching pair of 16th-century globes (one of the earth, the other of the heavens), and a collection of astrolabes and other early scientific instruments. How cool.