The first writings were clay tablets dating back to 2600 BC in Sumer. It was here that mankind left the prehistoric times and entered history. The first library of importance was the Great Library in Alexandria, founded by Ptolemy. The size of its collection is unknown, but some historians claim the number is close to 500,000 items. Not close to the number of items stored in the largest libraries in the world today!
The collection of modern libraries include large numbers of books, but other formats such as newspapers, manuscripts, films, maps, prints, documents, microform, cassettes, e-books, audiobooks, databases are collected as well. In many countries the largest libraries (often the National Libraries) have the right of legal deposit, which is a legal requirement that publishers in the country need to deposit a copy of each publication with the library. So which are the largest libraries in the world by number of items? Here’s a top 10 list!
Top 10 largest libraries by number of items
- Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia – 26.5 million items
- National Library of China, Beijing, China – 29 million items
- Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen, Denmark – 30.2 million items
- Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France – 31 million items
- National Diet Library, Tokyo, Japan – 35.6 million items
- National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Russia – 36.5 million items
- Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia – 44.4 million items
- New York Public Library, New York, USA – 53.1 million items
- British Library, London, Great Britain – 150 million items
- Library of Congress, Washington, USA – 150 million items