The largest public library in China and the tallest in the world, the collection at the Shanghai Library (Shànghǎi Túshūguǎn, 上海图书馆) is certainly impressive: with more than 50 million items in its archives; including historical documents, tapes, newspapers, scientific documents, and works from the first-ever Shanghai library collection, begun by the Jesuit community in 1847.
Those books most of interest to overseas visitors are likely to be in the foreign collection on the fourth floor, which boasts a broad selection of works on all things from the Silk Road to contemporary French pop music. Don’t expect to find too many controversial works relating to China, although the week-old copies of international newspapers, including the New York Times and the Guardian come as a pleasant surprise. The Internet room (RMB 4/hour) in the basement is also rather useful, given the frequency with which other venues around town seem to close up shop.
Before entering the reading rooms, you’re required to deposit your bags in the lockers to the left of the entrance, but it’s okay to keep your laptop if you’re planning to work while you’re here. Refreshments are available from the café on the ground floor, as well as from the canteen in the basement.