There are a number of institutions around the world that transcend the
standard definition of library. From the U.S. Library of Congress
to the Bibliotheque nationale de France, these
bastions of words, sounds, images and ideas provide the intellectual
foundation of modern society.
The American Library Association's list of the Nation's Largest Libraries
outlines institutions with
the most volumes, including the Library of Congress (30,011,748 volumes),
Harvard University (15,555,533) and the Boston Public Library
The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. turns 200 this
year. Begun with fewer than 1,000 books, the library now holds 115 million
items in a number of formats. "America's oldest national cultural center,"
the library is one of the largest repositories of recorded knowledge in the
world. Established as a legislative library, it now serves as the copyright
agency of the United States and the research arm of the U.S. Congress. With
a staff of nearly 3,000 and an annual appropriation of more than $300
million, the library is truly a wondrous monument. Online, you'll find
congressional records, committee information, legislative information and
The New York Public Library consists of 4 research centers
and 85 branch libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. With more
materials than any other public library in the nation, it is the largest
research library with a circulating system in the world. Established in
1895, the NYPL's collection has grown to more than 52 million items and
serves millions of users.
The British Library is the United Kingdom's national
library. Based in London and Yorkshire, it holds more than 62 million items,
including prized manuscripts, rare maps and thousands of precious documents.
Some documents are viewable online.