There’s nothing like being a tourist in your own city. Getting a coffee in a new cafe, finding a new park, stumbling across a new shop, or walking into a hidden library…
So here we are scouring the city for our favourite hidden library spots. Who wants to hear the hushed voices of timid librarians, watch large-eyebrowed people scouring through tomes for research and sneeze up the cobwebs settling on large legal files? We do! Hunt out the most interesting places to while away an afternoon…
1. The Maughan Library
Fancy being a student again, but without the snakebite, sticky club floors and giant hangovers? The Maughan Library is the main university research library of King’s College London. It used to be the home to the headquarters of the Public Record Office but was acquired by the university in 2001. After a lump sum of £35m in renovation fees, the Maughan is now the largest new university library in the UK since World War II.
After a lump sum of £35m in renovation fees, the Maughan is now the largest new university library in the UK since World War II.
These historic reading rooms hold the UK's most comprehensive public literature on the fine and decorative arts.
2. National Art Library at the V&A
The V&A may be known for historical artefacts and stunning canvases, but it’s also home to The National Art Library. These historic reading rooms hold the UK’s most comprehensive public literature on the fine and decorative arts, including books, journals, exhibition catalogues, auction house sales catalogues, comics, e-resources and a whole load more. Sit in a quiet corner and you don’t know who you might bump into.
3. Lincoln’s Inn Library
Supposedly just for lawyers and the like, you can actually tiptoe into this library unnoticed. These shelves of books act as a legal reference library for members of Lincoln’s Inn and the Bar as a whole. Law librarians are on hand for any legal queries, or you can just bypass them and sit on one of the balconies with you laptop and type away.
Supposedly just for lawyers and the like, you can actually tiptoe into this library unnoticed.
4. Peckham Library
Okay, so it’s not exactly hidden. It’s enormous. It’s a giant cube of a place! For those more interested in architecture, this one might be for you. It was designed by Alsop and Störmer and won the Stirling Prize for Architecture in 2000. It’s a community building so expect lots of kids, screaming babies and general bucket loads of fiction.
5. Senate House Library
Back to uni again, the Senate House Library is in the University of London. Its grand space and comfy chairs offer up a real lap of luxury. They’re celebrating 150 years of the library this year – there’s an online gallery with a whole host of artefacts that illustrate the rich history of the place. You can also snuggle away in one of the reading rooms if that takes your fancy. The library is in Senate House which is an epic Art Deco building that was constructed between 1932 and 1937, with 19 floors and is 210 feet high.
The library is in Senate House which is an epic Art Deco building that was constructed between 1932 and 1937, with 19 floors and is 210 feet high.
6. Wellcome Collection
This cute little space is in the Wellcome Collection – a museum of artefacts collected by 19th-century collector Henry Wellcome (alongside more modern exhibitions). The library is free to use, you just have to bring in your study stuff in a plastic bag and keep everything else locked up in a locker outside. There are historical and contemporary books, artworks, archives and manuscripts all exploring health and medicine. And there are lots of desk spaces for individual workspaces should you need it.