Libraries are temples of learning, entire buildings dedicated to the pursuit of human knowledge. More than that, they are really one of the last enclosed places on Earth where you can simply go and stay without having to buy something. They’re public spaces of the best kind, fostering knowledge and encouraging intellect. Patrons can borrow books, read the newspaper, take advantage of more recent multimedia offerings, and attend meet ups, programs, lectures and even film screenings. Libraries truly are the centers of our communities.
Really, all libraries are wonderful. However, if you are true blue library connoisseur, you know that there are some genuinely awe-inspiring libraries in the USA and the UK. Their architecture is stunning, their interior design is breathtaking, and their collections are vast. And when you’re ready to make your library bucket list, we’ve got you covered. Here are the top ten libraries in the USA and the UK that you will definitely want to visit.
Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library
Upon first glance, you might mistake the building for a train depot or a modern office building, but the Norwich Forum, which houses the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library, is a community space of the best sort. The library is bright and airy, with high ceilings and tons of natural light. However, the huge collection of books, multimedia, and children’s materials is the main draw.
Boston Public Library
It’s one of the largest public libraries in the USA in terms of collection size and number of programs offered. But really, the Boston Public Library is a museum of sorts, with grand Renaissance style architecture, a majestic arch in the main reading room, and busts and sculptures throughout.
Located at the University of Oxford, the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest in Europe. Its collection stands at over 12 million items, and its formal interiors reflect the seriousness of the research that is conducted under its roof.
Salt Lake City Public Library
The contemporary curves of Salt Lake City’s library are inviting. The new structure of the old institution is bright and cheery, with ample natural light and cool shadows. It’s a beautiful spot to hang out, read a good book, and watch the sun move across the sky.
Liverpool Central Library
It’s the largest library in Liverpool, but the main attraction of the Liverpool Central Library is its main atrium. Look up: it’s like being inside a giant telescope, with starry sightlines leading to a domed glass ceiling. The experience is not unlike being inside New York’s Guggenheim Museum. The round Picton Reading Room, an annex, is a warm spot to do schoolwork or read for pleasure.
The New York Public Library
It’s a New York institution, the second largest library in the United States, and a truly regal structure. Sex and the City fans will remember that Carrie Bradshaw wanted to get married within its halls, and it’s for good reason: the lions, the wonderful architectural details, the glorious reading room, and more make it one of the best spaces in the Big Apple.
This library has the distinction of being the oldest library in the UK, which alone is reason enough to pay it a visit. But it’s collection is remarkable in that more than half of it was created and printed before 1851. All visitors are welcome to come see Chetham’s Library, though you’ll need to make an appointment at least a day ahead of time if you want to conduct any research.
Harold Washington Library
Chicago’s relatively new Harold Washington Library (it was completed in 1991) is almost a million square feet of books, computers, reading spaces, and more. Head up to the ninth floor and take in the library’s beautiful winter garden — a perfect escape from Chicago’s frigid wind.
The John Rylands Library
Located in Manchester, the neo-Gothic architecture of the John Rylands Library invites visitors into a stunning reading room that looks more like the interior of a large church. More than appearances, though, the collection of this library is what’s most impressive: there are illuminated manuscripts, many letters and personal effects, and even a Gutenberg Bible.
The Library of Congress
It’s the largest library in the world, and even though it’s main purpose is to serve the United States Congress, everyone is welcome. Free public tours are offered, there are rotating exhibitions to visit (much like you would at a museum), and there are several free events each week, including concerts, lectures, poetry readings, and more. And of course, if you just want to sit down in one of the reading rooms with a novel, you can do that too.