City Lifestyle: Uppsala’s Amazing Libraries

By Carolina Reyes Chávez

I’ve never been that good when it comes to focusing on studying at home – maybe because I have everything at hand to procrastinate epically. Given that, some time ago I realized that it really helps for me to go to a place where there are more people working. Libraries happen to be the best for that -and also they have a pretty nice vibe! So, when I found that Uppsala has more than 10 libraries, I decided to go out and collect them all. Although I’ve not achieved that goal yet,  I hereby present some of my absolute favorite ones, as well as useful tips on where to heat up your lunch box or have cheap coffee for a really nice study time!

Uppsala University Library

First, some facts. Uppsala University Library consists of 10 libraries in Uppsala and 1 in Visby, and as a student you have access to all of them. You can use the study rooms, the computer labs, the printers, and you can borrow whatever books you want and return them anywhere else. Plus, something really cool is that the reading areas are divided up into “low voice allowed”, “normal voice allowed”, and “quiet” rooms. You can find a map of the different kinds of areas on the page of each library. Trust me, you’ll have a fun time exploring them.

A piece of advice: Swedish students are quite cheerful when doing group work and they take the “voice allowed”, seriously. So if you are the kind of person that gets easily distracted because of noise and laughter, it’s better to go to a quiet room instead.

A second piece of advice: When visiting for the first time you’ll want to have some extra 15 minutes to look around the library and choose your favorite spot – my preference goes out to one next to the window and with as much natural light as possible.

Carolina Rediviva

Opening hours:

Mon-Thurs: 8:30 – 21:00

Friday: 08:30 – 18:00

Sat/Sun: 10:00 – 16:00

Location: Dag Hammarskjölds väg 1

This is the main library and maybe the most known and loved by students and the public in general. Huge, cozy, with absolutely nice rooms and a large cafeteria. If you enter the reception and turn right you have the reading room, normal voice allowed. Plenty of desks, several armchairs, tables, even cabins for group work. The first time I went here, my Swedish friend told me “I haven’t been at any other rooms in this library because this is everything you need”. And it is great, however, if you are a big lover of natural light as myself, you may find it a little bit dark.

So, if you go back to the reception, opposite the main door you’ll find the entrance to the quiet room. Immense, light, sober, and with many, many desks. “Quiet” is not a joke here. Some of my friends say that’s the best place for them to focus.

For me, on the other hand, it can be quite a smashing, not-always-that-comfortable silence, yet, I’ve found it really helpful sometimes. Besides, if you get a place in front of the window you can have an absolutely nice view of the English Park – which is, by the way, the first public park founded in Uppsala.

Moving on, if you happen to get bored of these two rooms, it’s totally worth taking the lift in the reception and going to explore other floors. The ones opened to the public are the 5th, 6th and 9th floor. The 5th floor has the micro films, and the 6th has the Periodicals Reading Room. Smaller and cozy, with tall and elegant walls, this hall feels more like a living room. Low voice is allowed and usually it has a nice not-that-loud, not-that-silent vibe that is pretty useful to focus. And finally there is the 9th floor, Normal voice allowed. There are group tables and several individual places in front of the windows. Just the view from here will steal your breath.

Uppsala from the 9th floor

Hungry? Use the microwaves!

As a student you usually need to stick out to a budget, right? That’s why bringing a lunch box to the library is the most practical and cheapest option. It will also save you time. But what if you don’t want to eat your köttbullar cold? On the same floor as the reception you have Café Carolina. Upstairs you’ll find lots of microwaves and a coffee machine (11 SEK, 1 euro approx., for a regular coffee). Café Carolina also offers lunch and amazing pastries to eat while you enjoy your well-deserved coffee breaks. The cafeteria is open from Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 15:30, but you can use the microwaves and tables during all library opening hours.

Karin Boye Library

Opening hours:

Mon-Fri: 8:30 – 19:00

Sat/Sun: Closed

Location: English Park Campus, 3H

Another great option to start your studying day is the library inside the English Park campus. 4 floors, nice natural light, and a good mix of quiet, slow and normal voice areas. There are also 15 workplaces with computers available for users. You can download a map of the study zones, and if you feel lost or need any help (e.g. for finding books) the staff is always kind and friendly.

Tip for clearing your mind: If you need a break to have some fresh air, the graveyard just in front of the library happens to be a lovely place to have a walk. What? A graveyard? That’s correct. And it’s not spooky at all. On the contrary, you can find really cool things such as Viking runestones right there in the grounds.

Feeling snacky? Matikum is the cafeteria of the campus. It opens Monday to Friday from 10:00-14:00 and it serves lunch from 11:30 to 13:00. There are normally 3 main courses– vegan, vegetarian and fish or meat – plus soup, sandwiches and pierogi. The coffee there is 15 SEK (1,50 euros).

Back to studying? You can easily change location!

I’m also not that good at staying in the same place for too long, so a really cool and practical thing I’ve found about studying in Uppsala is that everything is quite close. If you are at the English Park Campus then you have 4 or 5 libraries within a short cycling distance. Alternatively, just a short walk from the Karin Boye Library there’s the Room for Students from the Institute of Theology.

Institute of Theology – Room for students 

Opening hours: 24/7 (which is crazy!) with your Campus card

Location: Ground floor at the Department of Theology, room 1 – 0060

I really love this place. Spacious, well-lit, with plenty of armchairs, tables, printers, and a kitchenette with microwaves, electric kettles, and a coffee machine. You can really make yourself at home here and use the room for whatever you want: study, lunch, chill, online class, group work, nap. You name it.

Cultural note and advice: If you go there for lunch on weekdays make sure you arrive some 10 minutes before noon to get a spot. That’s a particular thing about Swedes. At 12pm o’ clock, not a minute sooner or later, most of them stop whatever they are doing and go for lunch. So, if you want to find lots of free spots to study inside any of the libraries, between 12:00 and 13:00 is the perfect time. On the other hand, most lunch places will probably be crowded.You can find a list of other lunch rooms and study rooms at the English Park Campus, along with their opening hours here.

Biology Library

Opening hours: 24/7 with your Campus card

Location: Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC), Norbyv. 14. House 1 Floor K1 and 0

The coziest of all places. Small but spacious, 2 floors, lots of natural light, carpets, plants, armchairs, and really nice pictures of nature on the walls. It definitely feels more like a big living room. Here you can find 13 places for individual study, workplaces with computers, sofa groups and areas for group work. Also you are allowed to have coffee, drinks or snacks, although for lunch you’ll need to use the tables outside.

Tip for leisure time: Nearby you can find the Museum of Evolution with botany, zoology, paleontology and mineralogy. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00 -16:00 hrs. and it’s free for Uppsala University students!

Earth Sciences Library

Opening hours: 05:00 – 24:00 with Campus card

Location: Inside of the Geo Centre. Villav. 16. Entrance floor.

Not far from the Biology Library, this place is quiet and lovely. It has group rooms that can be reserved, 9 workplaces with computers and 36 individual desks. Coffee, drinks and snacks are allowed inside the library but food is not. However, not that far away you’ll find the microwaves area. The whole Geo Center has a warm and comfortable vibe, but one of the best things is that it has a piano that you can play whenever you want! Even scores are provided. Just make sure you don’t play during the exams season.

Other popular locations

 1. The starred-sky room at Campus Ekonomikum.

Location: Basement of Campus Ekonomikum. Kyrkogårdsgatan 10. Access only with Campus card.

One of the absolute favorites and most popular locations for students. You need to take off your shoes before going in and then you’ll find yourself inside of a truly mind blowing space.Disclaimer, it’s that cool that I found it difficult to focus there. However, although it completely lacks natural light, I would have loved just going and reading my favorite book in one of the super comfortable individual cabins.

2. Uppsala City Library

Location: Svartbäcksgatan 17. Just in downtown, 3 minutes away from Carolina Rediviva by bike.

The public library of the city has books in a wide range of languages like Polish, Latin, Finnish, Hindi, Urdu, Yiddish, Roma and much more. It also has a special collection of music records and a room where you can play board games. It’s open on weekdays from 09:00 to 20:00 (18:00 on Fridays). It also comes with a cafeteria, although the prices are quite high. However, being there you can easily reach one of the Student Nations to have lunch for a nice student price. To find out about the Nations and their dynamics you can check this article!

Final tips!

There are still a couple of things that I want to share. First, for the full list of libraries and opening hours you can see here. Besides, this guide for new students will guide you to use the library tools easily and practically.

Second, some of the Student Nations also have libraries that you can use, and you can always find free coffee there!

Third, if you need to find a specific location on one of the campuses like your classroom, the library, the cafeteria, etc., you can use Mazemap, a tool like google maps but with the in-door map of every campus of the university. You can also download the app and it will even give you directions to get from one room to another.

Additionally, there are plenty of online courses provided by Uppsala University Library, really useful and free of charge for students: introductory and advanced courses for using reference software like Zotero or Mendeley, programs like NVivo for qualitative data analysis, introduction to 3D printing and many more.

And finally, in 2021 Uppsala University Library celebrated its 400th birthday, so if you want to see and join part of the celebrations program, you can still do it.

I hope you have a pleasant time inside of these locations such as I have had. Also, I hope you get to love your time in Uppsala!


Picture credits: Carolina Reyes Chávez, Leonie Glaser, Laura de Boer

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