The Shanghai Library is the world’s tallest library (its tower rises up 106 metres) and the second largest in China, with over 50 million items spread over 83,000sqm. The airy main section, spread over five floors, is bright and functional rather than stuffy, with light pine furniture, pot plants and lots of people sitting around reading. There’s free wi-fi throughout the building for members and a ground-floor café with passable coffee and chocolate cake.
Most of the foreign materials (of which there are lots – over 60,000 books and 6,000 periodicals) are on the fifth floor. The main foreign books library has lots of text books and non-fiction – think weighty tomes on industrial design and US neoconservatism – while the fiction selection is small, but big enough that you should find something to read (Martin Amis’ Money: A Suicide Note on our visit).
In the periodical section, you can pick up trendy art mags (Neon from Australia), obscure niche titles (World Pumps, anyone?) as well as an extensive range of foreign newspapers that are usually more than a week old.
Sitting and reading in the library is free (with a visitor’s pass at reception), but you’ll need a library card to take books away. Go with your passport and you can get an annual card for 50RMB with a 1,000RMB deposit.