I wasn’t keen on going to libraries until I joined the university in 2013, and ever since then, I have developed a fascination for them and their immeasurable wealth of knowledge. University libraries are fundamental to the very institution of higher education. They are important to offer a platform to students and teachers to explore beyond classroom lectures and appreciate the richness of knowledge that has been shaped and developed since time immemorial. If there is one place I’d never get tired of, then it has been a university library.
The reputation of a university library depends on many factors: there are many which have been in existence for centuries and there are those which have emerged only recently; some offer millions of manuscripts, and some with limited stock, etc. Of all university libraries which exist today, there are a few which are irreplaceable to global education. These have a wonderful collection of the old and the new, an impressive administrative framework, and public-friendly access among many other things. Let us take a look at 5 of these university libraries.
- Magdalen College Old Library, Oxford University
One of the well-stocked libraries in the world is the Old Library at one of the wealthiest colleges in the world, Magdalen College. Anyone interested in reading early printed collections should check out this library whenever the opportunity comes their way. With a whopping reserve of more than 11 million books of which thousands are rare in nature, it is almost a dream-come-true for people like me who love to live in antiquity. The atmospheric conditions of the library are as marvellous as they can get: with attractive gothic architectural inspirations running throughout the building coupled with a quiet, intimate environment inside will surely make you want to stay there as long as you can.
- Widener Library, Harvard University.
Academic excellence defines Harvard University. Being one of the most financially endowed universities, it has managed to raise a highly well-networked library system marked by a voluminous database in the form of printed and online collections. Its Widener Library is the main highlight which was established in the year 1915. Featuring as many as 57 miles of bookshelves, you are sure to be left spellbound by the sheer volume of collections available here. Not just that, you have access to uncommonly found collections on cultures other than American such as German and Slavic.
- General Library, University of Coimbra.
The crown jewel of Portugal’s library system, General Library of the University of Coimbra is a massive aesthetic surprise to anyone who visits it. Having been established in the 16th century, its architectural brilliance clothed in baroque style accentuates the atmosphere and gives it an undeniable appeal. But, it is celebrated not only for its architectural embellishment but also for the rich scholarly materials available here. With a collection of more than 200,000 books from before the 19th century, you can spend all your time exploring them on any of the 4 floors. The overall collection is numerically stronger and breaches the one million mark.
- Hachioji Library, Tama Art University.
Situated in the metropolitan, culturally vibrant city of Tokyo, Tama Art University Library is an excellent example of architectural ingenuity. The arching cavernous interior featuring vaulted ceilings offers a unique perspective on modern-day libraries. The library has been designed by the renowned Japanese architect Toyo Ito and has attracted attention effortlessly. Its charm is furthered by a massive collection of Japanese and foreign books. The most commonly found genres here are that of design, art, and architecture. In addition, there is a huge database of reference books available to students. Within the library, you can also find a spacious theatre area.
- La Sorbonne Reading Room, University of Paris
Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne (officially, “Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne”; translation, “‘Sorbonne Interuniversity Library”‘) As expected from Parisians, La Sorbonne Reading Room is a manifestation of French elegance and distinct style. It is one of the most aesthetically appealing university libraries in the world and is incidentally the largest library in Europe. Boasting a collection of more than 470,000 books, there shall be no dearth of what can be learned here. The collection here usually targets subject areas of Humanities, Literature, and Humanities. International students would find a very good collection of books in foreign languages. The library has a long history since its establishment in the late 18th century and allows the public to access its resources.