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With more than one million books and periodicals in over 50 languages, the collection includes works from the 16th century to the latest publications in print and electronic form.


Inside The London Library


The London Library is one of the world's great lending libraries, with an amazing collection of over 1 million books, and an equally extraordinary history.

Behind its elegant facade overlooking St. James Square is a vast network of books, where since the mid-nineteenth century, seven buildings have been brought into one and a great centre of learning and ideas has been created.

Click on the video below to explore our magical building with its atmospheric bookstacks and beautiful spaces for members to work and relax in:

The Reading Room

Opened in 1896 by Virginia Woolf's father, the magnificent Reading Room has a special place in London’s literary life. Countless authors - from Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad to EM Forster and Antonia Fraser - have worked here; the opening chapter of AS Byatt's "Possession" is set here. Housing reference works and current periodicals and offering beautiful views across St. James's Square, it provides desk space for up to 40 people and a unique environment for quiet study.

Click here for a quick video tour of the Reading Room.

The Art Room

Built in the 1930s, bombed in the 1940s and extensively refurbished in 2010 by architects Haworth Tompkins (who won a RIBA award for their work), the Art Room's striking contemporary design makes clever reference to the architectural features found in the older parts of the Library. The impressive ceiling (covered over in the 1970s and only revealed during the refurbishment work) helps support six floors of bookstacks directly above it. Housing the larger books in the Library’s 25,000 strong art books collection, the Art Room is a popular working area accommodating 4 reading desks.

Click here for a short video tour of the Art Room.

The Bookstacks

The Library's extensive bookstacks are a paradise for browsing, with over one million books dating from the 1700s to the present day housed side-by-side on over 17 miles of shelving. The famous 1890s stacks with their striking iron-grille floors are some of the best-loved parts of the Library. Grade II listed they house four floors of the Library’s History and Science & Miscellaneous collections and three more floors of the Literature collection. Together they provide a uniquely atmospheric way of exploring books, triggering ideas and making new discoveries.

Click here to see a short video inside the famous stacks!

The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room is one of the most intensively-used areas of the Library and has become a favoured space for industrious writing and study. It can seat up to 26 people at any one time and offers members state-of-the art working and studying facilities in a setting that strikingly balances modern and traditional design features.

Click here for a quick video tour of the Writers' Room.

The Issue Hall

The Issue Hall – the Library’s historic entrance and reception area overseeing St James’s Square - was opened in 1896 and is the Library's central hub where books are issued and returned and our busy Member Services team are on hand to provide expert help about finding and borrowing books. An extensive locker area has been created to cater for up to 100 members at a time and nearby rooms provide handy print and copying facilities.

Click here to see a short video inside the Issue Hall.

The Times Room

The Library's labyrinthine basement area contains backruns of over 2,200 periodicals and journals housed on special rolling stacks. It also includes the Times Room – a purpose-built facility providing open access to original copies of over 200 years of the Times. These print holdings are complemented by the extensive online resources that are offered as part of membership, providing remote access to hundreds of journals and periodicals (including JSTOR), databases and newspapers.

Click here to take a video tour of the Times Room.

The Lightwell Reading Room

As its name suggests, The Lightwell Room was originally an open air courtyard designed to allow light into surrounding parts of the building. It has been recently been roofed over with a glass roof and converted into a spectacular working space housing up to 8 readers.  

The Sackler Study

The Sackler Study – a former Committee room – provides an impressive working space for up to 15 members. Designed in the 1930s by architects Mewes Davis (who also designed the Ritz Hotel) it creates an elegant Georgian Style atmosphere, particularly as the room also features an original Robert Adam fireplace, donated to the Library when Lansdowne House in Mayfair was part demolished in the 1930s.

6th Floor Members' Suite

We have opened new spaces for members on the 6th floor. These include the Annex and Common Room (providing informal spaces for individual or group work) and the Coffee Room (for eating and relaxing during the day). Unlike the rest of the Library, these are not strictly quiet areas, and conversations - including phone conversations - are permitted here. Mobile phone booths are available for longer or more private conversations.


Tom Holland


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