9 unusual libraries in London (shh!)

17th January 2016

Yes, the British Library is great, but if you want a taste of London’s literary treasures without the crowds, then kick back in one of these more unusual libraries…

1. The Women’s Library @ LSE

British Library of Political and Economic Science

Picture credit: Arthur John Picton on Flickr / Creative Commons

Why visit? This collection of 60,000 books and pamphlets, 3,000 journal titles, over 500 archives and 5,000 museum objects tells the story of women in the UK over 150 years.

Anything else? Apply for a membership via the LSE website (below).

Nearest Tube: Holborn

More information: Visit the LSE website here

2. Mediatheque at BFI Southbank

BFI Southbank

Picture credit: Craig Morey on Flickr / Creative Commons

Why visit? There are over 2,500 films and TV programmes from the BFI National Archive to explore, for free.

Anything else? It’s open from early afternoon until 8pm, every day apart from Monday. Book a viewing in advance to guarantee a place.

Nearest Tube: Waterloo

More information: Visit the BFI website

3. The London Library

Why visit? You’ll be in good company: previous members of this 175-year-old library include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Isaiah Berlin, Laurence Olivier and Agatha Christie. They have over a million books dating from the 16th century onwards.

Anything else? You’ll need membership to visit, which starts at £15 for the day.

Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus

More information: londonlibrary.co.uk

4. The Wiener Library

Why visit? 

It’s one of the biggest archives dedicated to supporting research, learning, teaching and advocacy about the Holocaust and genocide, their causes and consequences. Their collection includes over one million published and unpublished works, press cuttings, photographs and eyewitness testimony.

Anything else? It’s free to visit, but closed on weekends.

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: wienerlibrary.co.uk

5. London Metropolitan Archives

Why visit? It’s a must if you’re a fan of London and its history; their collection includes documents, images, maps, films and books about London.

Anything else?

Nearest Tube: Farringdon

More information: Visit the City of London website here

6. Marx Memorial Library

Marx memorial library london

Picture credit: Ben Sutherland on Flickr / Creative Commons

Why visit? Learn about the science of Marxism, the history of socialism and the working class at this library dedicated to Karl Marx.

Anything else? The library is open Monday to Thursday from midday until 4pm. There are also guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Nearest Tube: Farringdon

More information: marxlibrary.org.uk

7. Bishopsgate Institute

Bishopsgate institute libary

Picture credit: slocumjoseph on Flickr / Creative Commons

Why visit? Collections on London history, freethought and humanism, LGBT history and many more subjects.

Anything else? Book ahead if you want to take out any books: the collections are kept behind closed cabinets and you’ll have to read them in their reading room. There’s free wifi and a study area on offer though, free of charge and no membership required.

Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

More information: Visit the Bishopsgate Institute website

8. The Cartoon Museum library

Why visit? There are 6,000 books on cartoons and comics, and over 6,000 comics in the library accompanying this popular museum.

Anything else? The library is available to visit by appointment.

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court or Holborn

More information: cartoonmuseum.org

9. Freemasons’ Hall library

Museum of freemasonry

Picture credit: Cristian Bortes on Flickr / Creative Commons

Why visit? If freemasonry is your thing, then you could do a lot worse than visiting this library and museum dedicated to just that.

Anything else? It’s open until 5pm on weekdays, but closed on weekends.

Nearest Tube: Holborn

More information: freemasonry.london.museum

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Written by:

Charlotte Gunnell

London blogger at APeaceOfLondon.com on a mission to find chilled-out, cultured and unusual corners of the city. Lover of Lego, loyal bobber and watcher of the odd historical drama.

Follow me on Twitter @apeaceoflondon

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