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Libraries are first and foremost repositories of books and information, but beyond their archival and educational function, these knowledge-centred institutions can also inspire with their aesthetic architecture, as well as provide visitors with a peaceful sanctuary for curious and intellectual wandering.
While the presence of libraries in our community may not be as pronounced as it once was—before digital technologies made it possible for us to access a world of resources with just a few clicks—nothing can emulate the tangible experience of visiting a brick-and-mortar library, thumbing through rows upon rows of book-lined shelves for treasure, and disappearing into a peaceful nook with a good read. Whether you are a certified bookworm or a student looking for a new study spot, here are the best public libraries in Hong Kong to while an afternoon away.
Undeterred by the out-of-the-way location, zealous readers seek out the Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Public Library from near and far for the promise of tranquil repose and green-filled spaces to escape the hectic buzz of the city.
An eight-storeyed edifice, the library is an exemplary feat of modern architecture, with a clean-lined façade tempered by warm timber accents and expansive glass windows, creating a stylish and inviting home for books and all those who love them. It’s also the only public library in Hong Kong with outdoor reading areas, so nab a seat on the outdoor courtyard or rooftop terrace garden and savour the sweeping views of Tin Shui Wai.
Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Public Library, High Block, Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Leisure and Cultural Building, 1 Tsui Sing Road, Tin Shui Wai | (+852) 2126 7520
Snugly situated in the heart of Causeway Bay, this magnanimous concrete beast is hard to miss and even harder to pass by without paying it a visit. The flagship of the local public library system, the Hong Kong Central Library is the largest of its kind in both size and stature. Its exterior is a striking mishmash of modern and Neoclassical aesthetics, combining metallic glass panels and grid-like window design with geometric columns and a triangular pediment reminiscent of a courthouse.
The outward appearance is well-matched by the building’s lofty interiors. Step into the atrium and take a moment to marvel at the prestigious panoramic elevators, high ceilings, and broad expanse of book-lined shelves. You will find among them over 2.5 million books and multimedia items—a staggering number—sectioned into dedicated floors for children, teens, and adults to wander about.
Hong Kong Central Library, 66 Causeway Road, Causeway Bay | (+852) 2921 0503
While not as grandiose as its more youthful counterparts, Hong Kong City Hall Library nonetheless holds its own as a historical heavyweight, standing as the oldest public library in Hong Kong. Established in 1962, the library served as the city‘s flagship public library for decades until the imposing Hong Kong Central Library opened in 2001.
Before you question the blocky, white façade and taut, rectilinear forms, the building was designed in line with the architectural style of Internationalism, which flared in popularity during the early to mid-twentieth century. Beneath the stark exterior, the eight-storey library is surprisingly cosy, filled with over 537,000 items and plenty of cushy reading nooks to burrow in!
Hong Kong City Hall Library, 2/F–6/F & 8/F–11/F, City Hall High Block, Central | (+852) 2921 2555
Doused in eye-catching crimson, the Tuen Mun Public Library stands out like a beacon even amid the mixes of residential high-rises and commercial buildings in its surroundings. For over three decades, this red ceramic-tiled behemoth has faithfully provided the Tuen Mun community with an oasis for quiet thought and concentration in the bustling town centre.
Spanning 3,250 square metres, the library is not only stocked with a diverse collection of books, but it is also well-equipped with various facilities to enhance your visit, including a coffee corner, a newspaper reading room, and a designated study room for students. Outside the entrance, there is an open space decorated with light greenery and tasteful urban furniture allowing visitors to relax outside on a sunny day.
Tuen Mun Public Library, 1 Tuen Hi Road, Tuen Mun | (+852) 2450 0671
Why read at home when you can read in an award-winning, masterfully designed library? An awe-inducing work of local architect Karr Yip, the Ma On Shan Public Library may be dwarfed in size compared to others on the list, but its suspended cylindrical design and clean, open layout earned it a first-place award in the Public Art Design Competition held by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
Thanks to the integration of floor-to-ceiling windows, abundant natural light saturates the interior space, inspiring a bright and airy environment that’s equally conducive to productivity and relaxation. At night, the whole building glows from the inside out, inviting passers-by for a curious gander.
Ma On Shan Public Library, 14 On Chun Street, Ma On Shan | (+852) 2630 1911
Surrounded by a handful of schools in its immediate vicinity, the Kowloon Public Library has long been a favourite after-school haunt for students and academics, but its popularity is not purely borne out of convenience. Previously named the Kowloon Central Library, this magnificent teal-and-white structure is the largest public library in Kowloon, housing approximately 1.5 million books in its vast stacks.
In addition to a wide breadth of literature and reference materials, there is an Education Resource Centre on the ninth floor, providing teaching professionals and the general public with access to education-centred materials that are rarely found in other public libraries.
Kowloon Public Library, 5 Pui Ching Road, Ho Man Tin | (+852) 2926 4055