Royal Library of Belgium
Bibliothèque Royale / Koninklijke Bibliotheek
Keizerslaan 4 Boulevard de l’Empereur
B-1000 Brussels

The Royal Library of Belgium is by far the largest Belgian library (more than 5,000,000 catalogued books) and certainly one of the most important libraries in Europe.

This is Belgium’s national library, comparable to the American Library of Congress or the French Bibliothèque Nationale. By a law enacted April 8, 1965, one copy of every text printed in Belgium must be deposited at the Royal Library.

Many texts are, of course, then purchased in many more copies. At any rate, the Royal Library has on deposit and conserves at least one example of all printed or otherwise published periodicals and books, written by Belgians, or published outside of Belgium about Belgium or Belgians.

This includes translations of works written by Belgians. In addition it serves as a central research library, acquiring principal scholarly foreign publications of scientific value.

The main divisions of the Royal Library are:

  • Main reading room
  • Periodicals
  • Rare books
  • Maps and Plans
  • Manuscripts
  • Prints
  • Coins and Medals
  • Music

The Royal Library also houses a number of specialized collections, some having their own reading room (e.g. “The Center for American Studies”, etc.) Permanent and temporary exhibits at the Royal Library are of the highest literary, scientific and artistic interest.

There is a “Salle de Travail” in which scholars may reserve a place to work. Permission to work here is granted by the director. You should request this permission only if you expect to do considerable research in the Royal Library.

A scholar who has been granted the privilege of a table in the “Salle de Travail” may leave books on his table and does not have to start by getting them out each day.

The library has a very well developed photocopy department which includes not only xeroxing services, but microforms of various types.

One of the pleasant aspects of working in any section of the Royal Library is that you will find it staffed by fellow scholars. What it may lack in “stack privileges” and “Dewey-decimal systems” is more than compensated for by learned and scholarly enthusiasm for the subject at hand.

The only unpleasant aspect may be that the main Library closes at 7 p.m. on weekdays, and at 5 p.m. on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. Other sections have different hours, so check times.

University Libraries

Each of Belgium’s universities or university centers has its own library. These libraries are similar to libraries of the same kind in the States. An important difference, however, is that university libraries in Belgium are not open early, late and continuously, as American university libraries tend to be, nor are “stack privileges” usually available. To save space, books are shelved by size, or in order of acquisition, not by subject matter.

In addition to the university library, there are numerous “Faculty” libraries, with collections gathered by the professors of a particular faculty or institute of the university. Highly specialized, these faculty libraries are very numerous and often extensive, and almost always require “autorisation spéciale/ speciale toelating” for entry and usage.

Also important and useful are various Seminar libraries containing materials gathered for students by professors, who take pride in having at their fingertips as many books on their subject as they can amass. These are kept in Seminar rooms which are generally reserved for advanced students (i.e. of the Master or Doctorate level) and require the professor’s permission for entry.

Church-Affiliated Libraries

There are many church-affiliated libraries, housed in abbeys, seminaries, etc., one of the most important being that of the “Abdij Keizersberg” in Leuven, especially concerned with the study of medievalism and liturgy.

Subject-matter Libraries in Brussels

I. Colonial Studies

La Bibliothèque du Ministère des Affaires Etrangéres/ Bibliotheek Buitenlandse Zaken
Karmelietenstraat 15 Rue des Petits Carmes
B-1000 Brussels
Tel: 02/ 501 39 28; 02 501 80 98; 02 501 35 54; 02 501 39 29

Royal Museum for Central Africa Library
Steenweg op Leuven 17
B-3080 Tervuren

II. Economics and Sociology

SPF Economie, P.M.E., Classes moyennes et Energie – Bibliothèque Fonds Quetelet/ FOD Economie, K.M.O., Middenstand en Energie – Bibliotheek Queteletfonds
City Atrium
Rue du Progrès, 50
1210 Bruxelles
Tel. : 02 277 55 55
Fax : 02 277 55 53
General E-mail :
Questions about interlibrary loans, …:

Institut National de Statistique / Nationaal Instituut voor de Statistiek / Statistics Belgium
Ministère des Affaires Economiques
Rue de Louvain, 44
B-1000 Brussels

III. Fine Arts

Bibliothèque des Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique / Bibliotheek van de Koninklijke Musea voor de Schone Kunsten
Rue du Musée 9
B-1000 Brussels

Bibliothèque des Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire / Bibliotheek van de Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis
Parc du Cinquantenaire 1
B-1000 Brussels
Dutch website | French website

Bibliothèque de l’Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts et Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs
Rue du Midi, 144
B-1000 Brussels

Bibliothèque d’Art
Fondation Isabella Errera
Abbaye de la Cambre, 21
B-1050 Brussels

Royal Instittute for Cultural Heritage / Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique / Koninlijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium
Parc du Cinquantenaire 1
B-1000 Brussels

IV. International Studies

Egmont Institute- Royal Institute for International Relations
Naamsestraat 69 Rue de Namur
B-1000 Brussels

International Institute of Administrative Sciences
Rue Defacqz 1 – Box 11
B-1000 Brussels

Union of International Associations
Rue Washington 38-40
B-1050 Brussels

N.B.: Research on European questions should begin with a visit to the Director of the Document Center, U.S. Mission to the European Union, rue Zinner, 13,1000 Brussels. The Director is familiar with all libraries concerned with European matters, can procure documents or gain access to appropriate libraries including that of the EU itself.

V. History and Political Sciences

Bibliothèque du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères / Bibliotheek van het Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
Bibliothèque Centrale
Rue des Quatre-Bras 2
B-1000 Brussels
English website:
French website:
Dutch website:

Service d’Etude et de Documentation Juridique Internationale
Ministère des Affaires Etrangères
Rue Defacqz, 1
B-1050 Brussels

Bibliothèque du Parlement fédéral/Biliotheek van het Federaal Parlement
Palais de la Nation,
Place de la Nation, 2
B-1000 Brussels
French website | Dutch website

Bibliothèque de l’Institut Emile Vandervelde
Blvd. de l’Empereur, 13
B-1000 Brussels
Socialist party history

Bibliothèque du Ministère de la Justice / Bibliotheek van het Ministerie van Justitie
Place Poulaert, 4
B-1000 Brussels
Excellent collection of parliamentary debates, Belgian legal codes, and newspapers from all over the world.

VI. Musicology

Bibliothèque du Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Bruxelles, and the Koninklijk Muziekconservatorium van Brussel
Rue de la Régence, 30, Regentschapstraat
B-1000 Brussels

Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier (floor 4) Section de la Musique: In addition to the “Fonds Fétis”, the Royal Library Albert Ier is the repository of a wide variety of rare materials including a collection of early printed music and books on music. A detailed catalog and special reference works can be found in this section.

N.B.: Musicologists will also be interested in the “Fonds Terry” located at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Liège, Rue Forgeur, 14, 4000 Liège. It contains a rich collection of books and manuscripts of the16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Ask for letter of introduction to the director of the Conservatory.

You may consult a duplicate catalog of the “Fonds Terry” in the Music Section of the Royal Library Albert Ier: Catalogue de la Bibliothèque du Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Liège. Fonds Terry: Musique dramatique, Musique vocale profane, Musique vocale religieuse, Chants liturgiques, nationaux et populaires, Musique instrumentale, Ouvrages didactiques depuis 1700.

Royal Library
B-1000 Brussels
Belgian National Radio. Rich in practical editions of music and in recordings of interest to folklorists and ethnologists.

VII. English and American Libraries

Library of the British Council
Rue de la Charité 15, Liefdadigheidsstraat
B-1050 Brussels

This library is intended for use by Belgians and is not a typical British “public library”. They make no effort to keep up with current fiction. You are welcome to use it but don’t confuse it with public libraries at home.

Center for American Studies
Royale Library  (Floor +3),
Boulevard de l’Empereur, 4, Keizerslaan
B- 1000 Brussels
Reference library for Belgian as well as foreign scholars; you are welcome if you need materials (newspapers, periodical articles,…) on literary, historical, social aspects of the United States.