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Public-images-osm logo.svg amenity = library
Guantanamo captives' library a.jpg
A place to read and/or lend books Show/edit corresponding data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Group: amenities
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesshould not be used on waysmay be used on areas (and multipolygon relations)should not be used on relations (except multipolygon relations)
Useful combination
Status: de facto

According to Wikipedia, “a library is a collection of sources, resources, and services, and the structure in which it is housed. It is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, or a private individual.”[1] For OpenStreetMap only physical libraries as library buildings and/or as organizations are relevant.

How to map

Place a node or draw as an area along the library outline. Tag it with amenity=library and name=*.

Tags to use in combination

ref:isil=* - reference the International Standard Identifier for Libraries and Related Organisations (ISIL). The related organizations are not what is commonly understood as libraries but refer to museums and archives centres also. This is a standard defined by the ISO, namely ISO15511. See ISIL on Wikipedia.
books=* to indicate if a certain flavour of books can be found there, e.g. books=children, books=cooking, books=anarchism, …

Types of libraries

There are many different classification schemas to group libraries by types. Which system to use in OSM is still to be discussed.

Please do not use the word 'type' in a tag as it says nothing about what is being tagged.

  • Mark a library as open or closed to the public? Use the tag access=*.
  • Mark a library as academic? (proposal: library:type=academic A brief search failed to find this.)
  • Link the library to the institution it belongs to (for instance a university?) Use the tag operator=*.

A special case are library busses, see ref:isil=* for a description.

Topic of the collection

The usual term for referring to the library content(s) is collection or collections.

While there are many generic libraries, there are also many libraries which focus on a specific topic (e.g. architecture, chemistry, law, French literature, archeology, ...). Currently there doesn't yet seem an established way to tag this.

In addition to singular topic libraries there are some general libraries that also have an additional concentration on one specific topic. In some areas the topics are scattered between the libraries so that an inter-library loan of specialist knowledge maybe provided by the libraries as a group using this additional concentration on specialist topics.

The collection(s) is (are) composed of items on various material, generally specified as books, periodicals, records (musical or video), posts, manuscripts, archives, artworks…).

Libraries embedded in a larger establishment

One can keep in mind that a library may be physically independent or may be not and for decades, the British National Library used to be one of the British Museum sections. There is no clear limit between a library and an information or documentation centre.

Suggestion: treat the embedded libraries as a particular service of the capping institution, except the public libraries which are subsidies of public corporations or nonprofit organizations or incorporated on their own.

Mapping indoor with "sub-icons" could be considered in the future.


Multiple buildings and branches

As with all functions (points of interest), you should distinguish the library (function/service) from the physical building(s) in which it is located, i.e. you should prefer distinct OSM objects for each.

  • Libraries can consist of multiple buildings and may have several branches. In this case the same ISIL is used for all buildings and branches.
  • If different names are commonly used for each location, then each building or branch should be mapped as separate feature. Branch libraries in different neighborhoods or towns should be mapped as separate features.
  • If several buildings in one general area are considered one library with a single name, they may be mapped as an area with a closed way or a multipolygon relation.
  • A building can host multiple libraries. In this case, each library can be mapped as a separate node within the building outline, or optionally each library can be mapped as a separate area, if each library is limited to part of the building.

See also


  1. Article Library in Wikipedia at 8 December 2009.