A love of libraries: 5 famous libraries and their resources

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In our ‘A love of libraries’ series we have discussed setting up and managing a school or classroom library and have recommended activities for adults, teens and young learners. This time we take a look at five famous libraries with rich online resources to inspire you. We browse their online collections, visit their digital exhibitions and learn more about their history.

Here is some library vocabulary to remember: reference library, research library, legal deposit, manuscript, rare books.

The British Library in London

The British Library’s Reading Rooms. Source: www.bl.uk

The official logo of the British Library.

What?

The British Library was established in 1973, and there are over 150-200 million items in its collections. It receives a copy of all the books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is a research library and it also organizes exhibitions. The British Library is a reference-only library, which means that you cannot borrow books from here. You can visit the library’s Reading Rooms without charge, but there are a couple of rules you need to follow. → Activity tip: Ask your students to follow this link to learn about the opening hours and the rules of using the Reading Rooms.

Where?

Explore the area around the library on Google Maps (the link will take you to the library) and walk around the building using the Street View function of the map.

→ Activity tip: Students can find information about getting to the library here. Ask them which metro stations are nearest to the library.

Online resources

→ www.bl.uk The website of the library is easy to recognize by its red logo. We recommend the following areas to explore on the website:

The catalogue

  • This guide will help you find your way in the collections.
  • You can search the main catalogue here.

Trinity College Library in Dublin

The Long Room in the Old Library. Source: Wikimedia Commons

What?

The Library of Trinity College in Dublin is an old library which was established in 1592. It is similar to the British Library in the sense that it receives a copy of all the books published in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It has over 6 million copies of printed volumes. The library is a research library and it occupies several buildings in the college campus. The famous Long Room is the main chamber of the Old Library. It is almost 65 metres long and has 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. One of the most famous manuscripts in the library is the Book of Kells.

→ Activity tip: Ask your students to follow this link and learn more about the Book of Kells.

Where?

Explore the area around the library on Google Maps (the link will take you to the library) and walk around the building using the Street View function of the map.

→ Activity tip: How long does it take to walk from the Old Library to the River Liffey? How many interesting places can you see in the area?

Online resources

Digital Collections Browsing the Digital Collections of the Library is like a treasure hunt. They have fascinating manuscripts, photographs, maps, books and paintings.

The catalogue

You can search all the collections here.

The Bodleian Library in Oxford

Duke Humfrey’s Library (the oldest reading room) in the Bodleian. Source. Wikimedia Commons.

What?

The Bodleian Library is part of the Bodleian Libraries, a group of more than thirty libraries. It is the second largest library in Britain. It is also a reference library and it has over 12 million copies of different publications. It gets its name from Sir Thomas Bodley, who founded the library in 1602. Apart from being an important research library, it also holds rare books, classical papyri, maps and manuscripts and organizes exhibitions. You have to go through an admissions procedure to get a reader card.

→ Activity tip: Ask your students to follow this link and find out about how you can become a member of the Bodleian Library.

Where?

Explore the area around the library on Google Maps (the link will take you to the library) and walk around the building using the Street View function of the map.

→ Activity tip: List two important buildings near the library.

Online resources

Digital Collections The collections have over 860,000 images. You can create your own collection with personalised tags and annotations, and then share them with your friends.

→ Activity tip 1: Type in the name of your favourite animal and see what kinds of images you can find about them.

→ Activity tip 2: Visit the Online Exhibitions page and choose an exhibition to explore.

The catalogue

You can search all the databases here.

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

The Main Reading Room in the Library of Congress. Source: Wikimedia Commons

What?

The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The Library was founded in 1880 and it occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. It holds more than 168 million items. You can learn more about the Library and its collections here.

→ Activity tip: Follow this link and find information about the smallest and the largest books in the Library.

→ Tip for teachers: Check out the Lesson Plans under Classroom Materials on the Library webpage.

Where?

Explore the area around the library on Google Maps (the link will take you to the library) and walk around the building using the Street View function of the map.

→ Activity tip: How many official buildings can you find near the Library?

Online resources

Digital Collections

→ Activity tip: Type in the name of your favourite city in the search box on the top of the page and find images. What kind of written and visual information can you find?

The catalogue

You can search all the Library Catalog here.

New York Public Library in New York

Grand Study Hall, New York Public Library. Source: Wikimedia Commons

What?

The New York Public Library is a different type of library from the four libraries above. It is a library system with various locations across New York City. It has about 53 million items, which makes it the second largest library after the Library of Congress in the United States. The first version of the library was established thanks to the will of John Jacob Astor, who left a substantial amount of money for the creation of a public library. This original library was then developed through the decades. The most famous and recognizable building is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, commonly known as the Main Branch. You can learn more about the Library and its collections here.

→ Activity tip1: What animal is in the logo of the Library?

→ Activity tip2: Follow this link and look for information about the number of locations you can access with a New York Public Library Card. How long is your card valid if you are a visitor of the United States from outside the country?

→ Tip for teachers: Check out the Resource Packets to learn about different topics in History on the Library webpage.

Where?

Explore the area around the library on Google Maps (the link will take you to the library) and walk around the building using the Street View function of the map.

→ Activity tip1: What is the name of the nearest famous railway station?

→ Activity tip 2: How far is the Main Branch from Times Square?

Online resources

Digital Collections

→ Activity tip: Find images of New York City from different decades in the Digital Collections.

The catalogue

You can search the Catalog here.

Read more in our series on libraries:

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