List of the largest libraries in the United States

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The Library of Congress is the largest library in the United States. Above, the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building.

The size of libraries in the United States is determined by a number of metrics, including number of holdings (in terms of volumes or titles held), by circulation (i.e., library materials checked out or renewed); or by number of library visits.[1]

The largest public library in the United States—and the second largest library in the world—is the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., which is the de facto national library of the United States.[2] It holds more than 167 million items, including "more than 39 million books and other printed materials, 3.6 million recordings, 14.8 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 72 million manuscripts."[3] Other than the Library of Congress, the largest public library in the United States is the New York Public Library, while the largest research library in the United States is the Harvard Library.

Comparing the size of public libraries with research libraries (such as academic libraries) is complicated by the different definition of holdings or volumes used. The Association of Research Libraries uses the National Information Standards Organization definition of volume, which is "A single physical unit of any printed, typewritten, handwritten, mimeographed, or processed work, distinguished from other units by a separate binding, encasement, portfolio, or other clear distinction, which has been cataloged, classified, and made ready for use, and which is typically the unit used to charge circulation transactions."[4] In contrast, the Public Library Data Service Statistical Report (a publication of the Public Library Association, which is a division of the American Library Association) defines holdings as "the number of cataloged items (number of items, number of titles) plus paperbacks and videocassettes even if uncataloged."[4]

Largest public libraries by total collections[edit]

The American Library Association has published data on the size of 25 largest public libraries in the United States. These data are from the Institute of Museum and Library Services's Public Libraries Survey (PLS) for fiscal year 2016. The largest public libraries in the U.S. are far larger than the median public library in the country; almost four-fifths of U.S. public libraries serve areas with populations of fewer than 25,000.[1]

"Total collection" consists of print material, electronic books, audio materials, and video materials, each of which is a particular "data element" defined in the PLS. Print materials include printed books, serial music, and maps, including duplicates; electronic books include digital documents include e-books and digitized documents, including duplicates; "audio materials" include both physical audio files (such as cassette tapes, audioreels, CD-ROMs, and talking books) and downloadable units; and "video materials" similarly includes both physical video materials (such as videotape and DVD) and downloadable video files.[5]

Rank Library Area served Total collection (FY 2016)
1 New York Public Library Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, New York 25,271,223
2 Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Hamilton County, Ohio 11,721,430
3 Boston Public Library Boston, Massachusetts 8,197,010
4 Los Angeles Public Library Los Angeles, California 6,735,561
5 Chicago Public Library Chicago, Illinois 5,949,251
6 County of Los Angeles Public Library Los Angeles County, California 5,779,843
7 Queens Borough Public Library Queens, New York 5,670,563
8 San Diego Public Library San Diego, California 5,272,779
9 Dallas Public Library Dallas, Texas 5,155,647
10 Hennepin County Library Hennepin County, Minnesota 4,895,312
11 Dayton Metro Library Dayton, Ohio 4,719,674
12 Detroit Public Library Detroit, Michigan 4,394,193
13 King County Library System King County, Washington 3,967,872
14 Cleveland Public Library Cleveland, Ohio 3,946,416
15 Cuyahoga County Public Library Cuyahoga County, Ohio 3,661,264
16 Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn, New York 3,660,532
17 Miami-Dade Public Library System Miami-Dade County, Florida 3,626,153
18 Allen County Public Library Allen County, Indiana 3,568,442
19 Hawaii State Public Library System Hawaii 3,403,577
20 City of St. Louis Municipal Library District St. Louis, Missouri 3,281,380
21 Broward County Libraries Division Broward County, Florida 3,194,345
22 San Francisco Public Library City and County of San Francisco, California 3,122,259
23 Houston Public Library Houston, Texas 3,084,633
24 Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Clark County, Nevada 3,041,019
25 Atlanta Fulton Public Library System Atlanta, Georgia 2,951,414

Largest research libraries[edit]

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), a consortium of U.S. and Canada research libraries, reports statistical data on its 124 members (of which 114 are academic libraries within universities and 10 are non-academic research libraries). The ten non-university institutions in the ARL are the Boston Public Library, National Research Council Canada National Science Library, Center for Research Libraries, Library of Congress, National Agricultural Library, National Archives, National Library of Medicine, New York Public Library, New York State Library, and Smithsonian Libraries.

The following volume figures for the largest 20 U.S. and Canada research libraries by volume were reported in ARL Statistics, 2015-16, published in 2018. Some ARL member libraries include the holdings of law libraries, medical libraries, and branch campuses in their reported statistics; others do not.[6]

25 largest research libraries by volume[edit]

The following are the 25 ARL members with the largest number of volumes held.[7] ARL uses the ANSI/NISO Z39.7-2004 definition of "volume": "a single physical unit of any printed, typewritten, handwritten, mimeographed, or processed work, distinguished from other units by a separate binding, encasement, portfolio, or other clear distinction, which has been catalogued, classified, and made ready for use."[8] Microform, maps, and "electronic serials and other virtual serial volumes" are excluded from the volume count, but e-book units are included.[9]

Rank Library Institution Volumes (2015-16)
1 Harvard Library Harvard University 20,870,706
2 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign University Library University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign 14,569,260
3 University of Toronto Libraries University of Toronto Libraries 14,448,397
4 University of Michigan Library University of Michigan 14,194,430
5 Yale University Library Yale University 13,889,206
6 Columbia University Libraries Columbia University 13,594,821
7 University of California, Los Angeles Library University of California, Los Angeles 12,421,635
8 University of California, Berkeley Libraries University of California, Berkeley 12,022,996
9 University of Texas Libraries University of Texas at Austin 11,524,951
10 University of Chicago Library University of Chicago 11,253,997
11 Indiana University Libraries Indiana University 10,369,750
12 Princeton University Library Princeton University 10,336,123
13 University of Wisconsin–Madison University of Wisconsin 10,061,485
14 Cornell University Library Cornell University 9,575,046
15 Ohio State University Libraries Ohio State University 9,397,540
16 UNC Chapel Hill Libraries University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 9,197,350
17 University of Alberta Libraries University of Alberta 9,095,839
18 University of Washington Libraries University of Washington 9,021,092
19 Pennsylvania State University Libraries Pennsylvania State University 8,068,792
20 Duke University Libraries Duke University 8,047,108
21 University of Iowa Libraries University of Iowa 7,799,303
22 The Penn Libraries University of Pennsylvania 7,778,224
23 University of Arizona Libraries University of Arizona 7,467,238
24 University of Minnesota Libraries University of Minnesota 7,393,465
25 University of Pittsburgh Library System University of Pittsburgh 7,373,565

25 largest research libraries by titles held[edit]

The following are the 25 ARL members with the largest number of titles held,[10] "including catalogued, locally digitized, and licensed" titles.[11] ARL follows the ANSI/NISO Z39.7-2004 definition of "title": "The designation of a separate bibliographic whole, whether issued in one or several volumes...Titles are defined according to the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules. A book or serial title may be distinguished from other titles by its unique International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)."[12] Multiple copies of the same work (for example, subscriptions to the same publication) are counted as a single title, but a serial title available in multiple formats (for example, print and online) are counted once for each available format.[13]

Rank Library Institution Titles Held (2015-16)
1 Harvard Library Harvard University 14,852,253
2 University of California, Los Angeles Library University of California, Los Angeles 13,812,990
3 Yale University Library Yale University 11,200,907
4 University of California, Berkeley Libraries University of California, Berkeley 9,572,771
5 Columbia University Libraries Columbia University 9,568,363
6 University of Michigan Library University of Michigan 9,197,263
7 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign University Library University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign 8,857,980
8 University of Toronto Libraries University of Toronto Libraries 8,511,629
9 University of California, Santa Barbara Library University of California, Santa Barbara 8,147,213
10 University of Wisconsin–Madison University of Wisconsin 8,125,395
11 Michigan State University Libraries Michigan State University 7,800,120
12 Indiana University Libraries Indiana University 7,784,339
13 Princeton University Library Princeton University 7,759,990
14 Cornell University Library Cornell University 7,571,682
15 University of Chicago Library University of Chicago 7,408,866
16 University of Texas Libraries University of Texas at Austin 6,642,492
17 Duke University Libraries Duke University 6,348,148
18 Pennsylvania State University Libraries Pennsylvania State University 6,318,518
19 Ohio State University Libraries Ohio State University 6,300,022
20 University of British Columbia Library University of British Columbia 6,079,421
21 University of Pittsburgh Library System University of Pittsburgh 6,027,418
22 New York University Libraries New York University 5,945,478
23 Northwestern University Library Northwestern University 5,919,159
24 LSU Libraries Louisiana State University 5,855,226
25 University of Iowa Libraries University of Iowa 5,818,670

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Nation's Largest Public Libraries: Home, American Library Association (last accessed December 24, 2018).
  2. ^ James H. Billington, Library of Congress, Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. ^ Fascinating Facts, Library of Congress (last accessed December 24, 2018).
  4. ^ a b The Nation's Largest Libraries: A Listing By Volumes Held (ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 22). American Library Association] (October 2012).
  5. ^ State Characteristics Data Element Definitions, Institute of Museum and Library Services (FY 2016).
  6. ^ Shaneka Morris & Gary Roebuck, ARL Statistics, 2015-16, Association of Research Libraries (2018).
  7. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 46.
  8. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 61.
  9. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 61.
  10. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 47.
  11. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 60.
  12. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 60.
  13. ^ Morris & Roebuck (2018), p. 60.