Libraries in Spain

What you should know

Libraries in Spain

Spain has poor public libraries, which bear no comparison to the excellent library systems in, for example, the UK and the US. Most Spaniards don’t do a lot of reading and most homes possess few books.

However, Spanish public libraries often have an international section mostly containing English-language books, but also with books in Danish, Dutch, French and German (the selection may depend on the predominant resident expatriate community). There may be a small annual membership fee.

Usually, you must know in advance what you want and ask for it at the counter. Opening times are usually severely restricted and libraries may open for a few hours a day only, usually in the morning, on just two or three days a week.

The largest library in Spain is the National Library in Madrid containing over 2m volumes. The Instituto Cervantes and the Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Council have offices in many countries with extensive Spanish reference (open to non-members) and lending libraries.

Foreign residents will be pleased to know that there are private libraries in many towns run by expatriate organisations and social clubs. There are also second-hand book shops in resort areas, where you can swap books. Like public libraries, private libraries open for only a few hours on two or three days a week, usually including Saturdays.

Annual membership normally costs €3 to €10 a year or perhaps more for non-residents (short-term membership is usually available). There may also be a small fee for each book borrowed. Private libraries welcome new members of all nationalities, residents and non-residents, and are grateful for donations of unwanted books.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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