SOAS Library: 5 things you didn’t know

Student with book in SOAS library

At the heart of every university is a library. But the SOAS Library is on another level. As one of the UK’s 5 National Research Libraries and boasting over 1.3 million volumes, our library hosts a vast collection of books, archives and information – it’s an absolute hub of knowledge- and, as the SOAS motto states, ‘Knowledge is Power’.

But what else is unique about it? Here’s five things you probably didn’t know.

1. The architecture is great

SOAS Library is housed in the Philips Building, commissioned in 1960 and designed by architect Sir Denys Lasdun. Lasdun also designed the brutalist National Theatre on London’s Southbank, Fizwilliam College, Cambridge, and the IBM building in London.

architect plan of university
Architect’s plan of SOAS

2. There’s a podcast about it

Think you’ve heard it all? Listen to the SOAS Library podcast to discover more about our collections – pop on your headphones and take a tour without having to leave your sofa.

interior shot, books

3. It’s had its fair share of fame

The SOAS Library was used as a filming location for 2016 film, Criminal , starring Gary Oldman, Kevin Kostner and Ryan Reynolds — the location also featured in J.K Rowling’s ‘Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling’.

library check in
A shot from ‘Strike’

4. It used to be in another part of London entirely

The SOAS Library has not always been in Bloomsbury – it was originally based in Finsbury Circus, along with other university buildings, and moved to its current location in Russell Square in 1941.

SOAS Library University library Finsbury circus
SOAS Library, Finsbury Circus, 1920

5. There is rumour a sheep once visited the library

Think you’ve seen it all? There once was apparently a sheep in the SOAS Library (according to one guy – we neither confirm nor deny this occurrence). But don’t come for the farm animals, come for the books.

Stephen Liddell: ‘Why are we here or the SOAS Library’

Find out more about SOAS Library, and search the catalogue.

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