As it turns out, libraries are not just good for enriching the brain. – they’re also good for pleasing the eye! Despite the dramatic decline in library users (thanks, internet and Google Books), London still has lots and lots of book-nooks, some of which are simply stunning (inside and out…sometimes just out…) and some of which are not. But we haven’t included those, funnily enough…
1. Maughan Library
This one can only be admired from the outside (unless you’re a King’s College London student, that is), but boy is it a piece of eye candy. The nineteenth-century Grade II listed neo-gothic building is located on Chancery Lane and was designed by Sir James Pennethorne and constructed in 1851. Inside (sorry) it has a magnificent dodecagonal reading room that was featured in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and regularly receives filming requests, but its day-to-day purpose is as a space for actual learning. Following a £35m renovation the Maughan is the largest new university library in the UK since World War II. And one of the most beautiful!
100-113 Chancery Ln, WC2A 1PL
2. The London Library
Despite the fact that The London Library is one of the world’s largest lending independent libraries, and one of the UK’s leading literary institutions, it is also one most gorgeous. Founded in 1841 it holds a remarkable collection of over one million books and periodicals, as well as around 8000 new volumes added annually. It includes some astonishing rarities and a uniquely eclectic mix of titles, and boasts a list of distinguished members (despite membership being open to all with an annual fee). Located at 14 St. James’s Square in the City of Westminster, it’s definitely worth a peruse – you can buy a daily ticket for £15 if you can’t take the full commitment.
14 St James’s Square, SW1Y 4LG
3. The British Library
Ok, so it’s not much to look at from the outside…but the interior of the British Library is breathtaking. Anyone can visit it (although the Reading Rooms are for members only), meaning that along with its delicious cafe (serious – Peyton and Byrne coffee!) it makes for a great day out. In the middle of the building is a six-storey glass tower inspired by a similar structure in the Beinecke Library, containing the King’s Library with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820. Wowza! And if that’s not impressive enough, the building was Grade I listed on 1 August 2015.
96 Euston Rd, NW1 2DB
4. The National Art Library at the V&A
The National Art Library is a major public reference library for the fine and decorative arts, and is the V&A’s curatorial department for the art, craft and design of the book. Hidden away on the first floor of the V&A, its collection contains books on prints, drawings, woodwork, textiles, metalwork and is free to use for all members of the public! All you need to do is provide ID with proof of address. Or you can just have a peek in through the glass of their huge double doors…
Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
5. Peckham Library
A controversial choice, perhaps, but fans of modern architecture will find much love for this library. Furthermore, libraries do not usually attract as much attention as this one. Its unusual shape and striking colours make for an eye-catching building that has become very popular with the local community…particularly with questions as to how the hell it’s standing up! Well, we know how…Its inverted capital L shape has its upper part supported by steel pillars set at (apparently) random angles while the exterior is clad with pre-painted copper, steel mesh and coloured glass. Wanting to challenge common preconceptions of libraries, it achieves its aim gallantly!
122 Peckham Hill Street, Peckham
Featured Image Credit: SkyScraper