Ah, libraries—a favorite haven of bookworms and writers; right up there with bookstores and coffee shops. This year, National Library Week is April 10-16. Celebrate by surrounding yourself with shelves stacked high with books and books—visit one (or more!) of the best libraries here in the U.S.
15 Of The Most Interesting Libraries In The U.S.
1) The Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, TX: The library was designed by Dr. A.J. Armstrong to be “the most beautiful building in Texas.” The result is a gorgeous three-story Italian Renaissance style masterpiece adorned with sixty-two stained glass windows, massive marble columns, and intricate ceiling designs.
2) Morgan Library, New York, NY: The Morgan Library was constructed in 1906 as a personal library and museum for financier Pierpont Morgan’s impressive collection of rare books, manuscripts, drawings, prints, and various other artifacts. After Pierpont’s death, his grandson, J.P. Morgan, opened the library to the public in 1924. The Morgan Library has expanded into a massive three-building facility that takes up half a block and is considered a historic New York landmark.
3) Boston Public Library, Boston, MA: The Boston Public Library was established in 1848 and is considered the first municipal library in the U.S. Originally housed in a tiny schoolhouse, it was expanded in 1865 by architect Charles Follen McKim. The building was expanded yet again in 1972, and now contains over 8.9 million books in addition to a number of rare manuscripts, maps, musical scores, and prints. It even contains first-edition folios from Shakespeare and original music scores by Mozart. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
4) Braddock Carnegie Library, Braddock, PA: The first Carnegie Library in the U.S., it was designed in a medieval style by architect William Halsey Wood in 1888. The library officially opened its doors in 1889 and underwent an expansion five years later that nearly doubled the size of the original building. The Braddock Carnegie Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, but was closed in 1974—and nearly demolished in the late ’70s because it needed extensive repairs. Fortunately, the Braddock Field Historical Society, led by former librarian David Solomon, purchased the building for $1, hoping to repair and preserve it. The library reopened in 1983 as a children’s library and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
5) Hearst Castle Gothic Study, San Simeon, CA: Historic Hearst Castle is considered one of the most famous buildings in California. The second and third stories house a massive guest library as well as a cozier gothic library and study. The eighty-foot library chamber houses approximately 4,000 books and evokes the atmosphere of a medieval church with its high windows and hand-carved Spanish painted arches. The study itself still contains Hearst’s vast collection of late medieval texts, paintings, statues, metalwork, and textiles.
6) Suzzallo Library, University of Washington, Seattle, WA: The library was completed in 1923 and features eighteen terra-cotta figures set atop the buttresses, each representing an academic hero such as Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Gutenberg, and others. Inside the library, a series of shields depict the coat of arms of many prestigious universities from around the world, including Yale, Oxford, Stanford, and Uppsala. While the library is home to a number of rare volumes, the most famous item within its collection is one of the world’s largest: a photo book of Bhutan by Michael Hawley. Library staff turn the pages once a month so that interested viewers can slowly enjoy the work from beginning to end.
7) Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Architect Frank Furness wanted the library, built in 1888, to reflect Philadelphia’s infamous red brick factories. Within decades of opening, the library became too small to house the school’s increasing collection, so a series of additions and alterations occurred over the next thirty years. The library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and by 1985 was named a National Historic Landmark.
8) Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, CT: One of the world’s largest libraries of its kind, the Beinecke Library is Yale University’s principal repository of literary archives, early manuscripts, and rare books. Designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, the building was completed in 1963 and constructed of marble, bronze, glass, and granite sourced from Vermont. The library’s imposing geometric exterior functions to filter out sunlight and protect the many priceless volumes inside the building, including the Gutenberg Bible.
9) The George Peabody Library, Baltimore, MD: A division of John Hopkins University, the library opened its doors in 1878 as part of the Peabody Institute. It served as a free public library, offering a series of lectures, a music conservatory, and an art collection dedicated to the citizens of Baltimore. The building is widely renowned for its dramatic, soaring ceilings and five stories of intricate cast-iron balconies. The library contains over 300,000 works and remained part of the Peabody Institute until 1966, when the collection was transferred to the City of Baltimore. The library reopened to the public in 1982.
10) The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress first opened to the public in 1867. The current building replaced the original structure that was destroyed by British troops in 1814. It was commissioned for reconstruction by former president John Adams. Thomas Jefferson subsequently offered his own personal library, which held some of America’s most valuable literary pieces. The building itself is ornately adorned with marble, bronze, gold, and mahogany. Over fifty American artists contributed to the hand-carved sculptures and painted decoration, reinforcing the library’s grand patriotic ideology.
11) New York Public Library, New York, NY: The New York Public Library is a public landmark that is located next to Bryant Park on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. The architecture firm of Carrere & Hastings began construction in 1902, and the library opened its doors in 1911. The New York Public Library houses an impressive, eclectic collection of historical items, including medieval manuscripts, ancient Japanese scrolls, comic books, and even baseball cards.
12) Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL: The library is renowned for the impressive glass dome enclosing the building’s main study space. Designed by Helmut Jahn and completed in 2011, the building has won numerous design awards. The library is capable of holding over 3.5 million volumes through its hi-tech automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), which requires only one-seventh the space of regular library stacks. The volumes are stored underground in metal bins stacked over fifty feet high, and the library tracks each book’s location using bar codes. When a visitor requests a book, a robotic crane retrieves the bin and transports it up to the main floor.
13) Linderman Library and Fairchild-Martindale Library, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA: This extensive library with three main locations was designed by architect Addison Hutton in the 1870s and has undergone several major renovations. The library now houses well over one million volumes and subscriptions to over 25,000 periodicals. The Fairchild-Martindale section contains books, journals, newspapers, and microform collections in all branches of science, engineering, mathematics, and social sciences. It also serves as a government depository and contains more than 235,000 printed federal documents. Linderman’s rare book collection houses over 40,000 volumes, including copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and John James Audubon’s four-volume Birds of America.
14) Klarchek Information Commons, Loyola University, Chicago, IL: Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the library offers visitors breathtaking views. This is one of the most hi-tech, sustainable libraries in the country; German-based Transsolar KlimaEngineering incorporated innovative technologies to perform detailed climate analysis. As a result, the library relies solely upon the natural environment to heat and cool the building.
15) Uris Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: The Uris Library is Cornell’s oldest library and contains predominately humanities and social sciences material. The library was constructed to hold the 30,000 books of the university’s first president, Andrew Dickinson White. Uris Library now houses an impressive 171,683 volumes and is often referred to as the “Harry Potter” library due to its magical natural lighting.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite library to add to this list? Tell us in the comments below!
THANKS SO MUCH for publishing this list! These libraries are vacation destinations! The only one I’ve visited is NY Public Library so I have some planning to do!
Thank you, Mary Diane! We’re glad you liked this article.
A beautiful article! Thanks for creating and posting this.
America’s local libraries helped me a lot. I hope I can visit these beautiful libraries in the future. Thank you for posting.