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London Bookground Map

Clapham Library - Google Street View © 2022 Google Maps 4 min read

Busy modern library with cafe, bike parking and bus stop
Clapham Library – Google Street View © 2022 Google Maps

London Bookground Map is the first side step from the Greenground Map project to a new path, connecting libraries across London into a large creative library network. 350 mostly public, specialist and some member libraries are linked together with 12 thematic lines based on historic writers with connections to London. Walking distances, closest bus stops and bike parking on the map make planning your visits easy and the activity icons in the index help to find what’s happening in the library.

The specialist libraries are mainly clustered in the centre of London and offer unique experiences with thematic collections and events. If you like poetry, step on the Shakespeare line and visit National Poetry Library. Are you a film lover? Walk the Doyle line to explore the collections of The BFI Reuben Library. Seacole line will take you to the Wellcome library of healthcare, and the Christie line will have you covered with a stop at the Guildhall Library and police museum focusing on the history of crime investigation (note: according to reliable sources the police museum has sadly permanently closed, but the library remains open).

There are also many unique public libraries across London to explore with extended North and South lines. From quiet historic reading spaces to vibrant modern library centres and local community-run spaces – libraries draw together people everywhere. As books move from shelves to devices, libraries too have to reinvent themselves for a new era of readers. This map aims to show the importance of libraries as open and welcoming community spaces. 

During making this map I searched all 350 libraries on Google maps and looked for additional information from borough council websites. All boroughs have different approaches to displaying library information, but I think Lambeth Council had the best library hub with very clear, inviting and open information. All the information you need as a reader is accessible from the front page – from joining the library and services to new books and activities as well as active social media feed.

Modern readers are not content anymore with paper books and photocopy services and look more holistic approach with rounded services from onsite (reading) activities to online communities and events. Digital and audiobooks are the new normal of reading on the go and many busy professionals may only connect to online services. The library on site can be a workspace for the day for a new start-up to escape isolation or a much-needed public space for a young parent or elderly to connect with others.

Library services are more complex than ever before and libraries are still under a lot of pressure to prove themselves as many historic library houses are under threat of closure. However, some have reinvented themselves as charities and are pushing back with running library services and community events by volunteers rather than face closure such as Perivale Community Library in Ealing. Luckily there are also success stories and old libraries are being mindfully renovated to adapt to new community needs such as Lea Bridge Library in this recent Guardian article.

But mainly has this project grown out of personal interest in books & libraries and I hope it will also inspire you to discover the amazing London library network in a new way.

NEW! London Bookground Map is available in my shop for £12 (postage included)