The 20 Coolest Libraries In The World
When we think of cool, the library isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. The library is for dorks and nerds. It’s where losers hang out. Those would be the same losers who when they’re done with college go on to build business empires and drive the future. The same losers who are currently running Silicon Valley. So we think it’s time to dispel the myth, to show that libraries are not only cool, but also places where we might want to spend more time. With that in mind, we’ve gathered together the 20 coolest libraries on the planet.
University Of Delft Library, Holland
A visit to the library at Delft University is like stepping into children’s hour at Channel 13. From the outside it looks more like the weekend home of the Teletubbies than a library. Inside it looks like a UFO landing, nerd aliens from Alpha Centauri stopped in for some terrestrial, lightspeed reading.
Bedales Memorial Library, England
Founded in 1893 as an alternative to the authoritarian practices common in Victorian schools, Bedales is a school for students aged 13-18 years. The library was built in 1921 to commemorate those who died in World War 1. Unlike most libraries, students are trusted to borrow and return from the 26,000 books housed here without any restrictions. No late fees!
El Escorial Library, Spain
The library is one of three buildings that make up the vast complex of the Escorial, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Spain’s most visited landmarks. The Escorial is widely considered the most important architectural monument of the Spanish Renaissance. The curved ceilings of the library are covered in frescoes depicting the seven liberal arts: rhetoric, dialectic, music, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. They were done by Pellegrino Tibaldi, best known for his sparkling water.
Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego
The Geisel Library is home to all our childhoods. Originally opened in 1970 as the Central Library, it was renamed in 1995 after Theodore Seuss Geisel, who is best known as Dr. Seuss. The Dr. Seuss collection is housed here, around 8,500 items in all. Access is restricted to researchers who have obtained permission, although items from the collection are on exhibit during March, Dr. Seuss’s birth month.
Brain Library, Germany
The Philology Library of the Free University of Berlin is more commonly known as the “Brain”, possibly because it looks like a brain. Albeit a big one. Opened in 2005 it has become an architectural landmark. The edges of each of the four floors snake around in curves relative to the floor above or below it, apparently creating a pattern not unlike a brain MRI.
Mafra Palace Library, Portugal
The Mafra Library is like a hairdresser’s. You have to make an appointment to get in. It first opened in 1771 and still houses a large number of incunabula, which means books printed before the year 1500 and not, as we thought, a large spider. While there may be no spiders in the Mafra Library, there is a colony of bats, which we’re calling Preserver Bats. They eat insects that would otherwise damage the books.
Tripitaka Koreana, South Korea
The Tripitaka Koreana dates from 1231 and is where you’ll find the most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world. If that’s what you happened to be looking for. At least you would if it were open to the public. It’s not. Interestingly, the shelves here are stacked not with books, but wooden printing blocks. The building is up in the mountains, where cool winds have helped to keep the blocks in almost perfect condition.
Library of Congress, Washington
The Library of Congress has the most books of any library, the number currently around 30 million. It grows at an almost unbelievable rate of 10,000 items per day. That figure includes not just books, but manuscripts, journals, newspapers, and practically anything else that can be read. So where do you put this much stuff? This is your worst basement nightmare. A staggering 500 miles of underground rooms have been built beneath the library. Imagine being the librarian: “It’s around here somewhere.”
Book Mountain & Library Quarter, Holland
We thought Holland was all pot, hookers and windmills, but apparently the Dutch also like their books. The Rotterdam Book Mountain is built in the shape of a pyramid. The books are on glass shelves. You reach them via a network of stairs that look like they apparated in from Hogwarts. Upon reaching the summit you can relax in the reading room with a coffee from the café, and catch the views through the glazed ceiling.
George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University
You wouldn’t expect a research library to become a primary event and wedding venue, but that’s what’s happened at the Peabody Library in Baltimore. Located in the renowned Peabody Institute of Music and rising six tiers above a marble floor, the library contains more than 300,000 volumes in a space built around columns and classic design features. Capping the striking interior is a massive skylight, kind of like the icing on the cake.
Trinity College Library, Ireland
Perhaps most famous for housing the Book of Kells, two of whose four parts are on public display, the library at Trinity may look familiar to all the Star Wars geeks. The Jedi archives of the Jedi Temple in Attack of The Clones looks a lot like the library’s Long Room. This caused a bit of a stir at the time, as George Lucas had not asked permission to use the iconic room. However, he denied that the two were in any way related, and the library chose not to pursue the issue legally. Go check it out and see what you think.
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Canada
The Thomas Fisher Library appears to have had its beginnings in a room known as the Art Cupboard, where books had been accumulating since 1890, when the library was pretty much destroyed in the St. Valentine’s Day fire. Founded in 1955, the library is named after a man whose claim to fame appears to be that he owned a grist mill and was an active member of the community. Is that what it takes? A jog around town every morning to have one of the world’s great fonts of knowledge named after you?
Selexyz Dominicanen, Holland
Is this a bookstore or a library? There seems to be some doubt. We’re not certain even the Selexyz Dominicanen knows for sure. We actually think it’s both, since it’s a collection of books that you can take out, and a collection of books that you can buy. The other unusual thing about this library/bookstore is that it’s built in a 13th century Dominican church.
Sir Duncan Rice Library, Scotland
One of the libraries comprising the network of libraries at the University of Aberdeen, this is the Guggenheim of books, a 21st century space with curves in all the right places. Officially opened in 2012, the Duncan Rice holds Over 250,000 books and manuscripts, with 1200 reading areas. It also has The Hardback Café for when you need a break.
Suzzallo Library, Seattle
Henry Suzzallo was the 15th president of the University of Washington, and viewed the library as being the soul of the university. Its 350,000 square feet houses more than 2 million print volumes that span all the disciplines.
Liyuan Library, China
Camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings, the library at Jiaojiehe is built with twigs wedged between nails that together conceal the glass exterior of the building. The architect used sticks that were simply scattered on the ground in the nearby area. The library is a short walk from the town. This was done so that the visitor would have time to clear his head before reaching the library. In America this would have been done differently. For starters there would be hamburgers and the option to supersize.
The Richelieu-Louvois Library, Paris
The National Library of France has its origins during the reign of Charles V in 1368. The Richelieu Library is one of the buildings that make up the national library. It houses the Special Collections, and is perhaps most notable for its striking reading room. The Richelieu is currently undergoing restoration.
Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve, Paris
Built between 1838 and 1850, the library contains around 2 million documents and was the inspiration for the Boston Library. The ceilings of the library are similar in style to railway stations of the same period.
Villanueva Public Library, Colombia
The library at Villanueva was designed by four architects, all under 27 years of age, who won a national contest organized by the Colombian Architects Society. The building is constructed ecologically, built with local materials by local people who were trained to help with its construction.
Royal Portuguese Library, Brazil
The library was started in 1837 by Portuguese immigrants, but not inaugurated until 1887. The building has two floors, and was the first in the city to have a metallic structure. With its skylight of stained glass, the signature reading room at the library is the full height of the two-story building.
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