15 Of The Coolest Libraries In The U.S.
Historically, libraries are thought of as being dark and stuffy. Thankfully, there are many libraries around the world striving to shake this reputation. Check out fifteen of the coolest libraries in the United States alone. Once you see pictures of each location, you’ll want to plan a road trip to hit ‘em all!
1. New York City Public Library, New York City, New York.
The New York City Public Library is one of the most well-known in America. Construction began in 1899 and took 12 years, as it is made mostly of marble; the exterior marble is 12 inches thick! The stately lions guarding the front entrance stretch out over eleven feet – longer than their real life counterparts! The collection itself consists of over 125 miles of shelved books, and includes 40,000 menus from the 1850s to the present.
2. Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, MO.
The Kansas City Public Library is well-known because its parking garage has been designed to look like a shelf of books! The spines are made of signboard mylar, and stand 25 feet tall by 9 feet wide! Local residents were able to vote on what book titles they wanted depicted on the spines.
3. Boston Public Library, Boston, MA.
The beautiful and stately Boston Public Library, established in 1848, was the first municipal library in the United States. It was originally located in a small schoolhouse, but quickly expanded, and now contains over 8.9 million books, along with an extensive collection of rare manuscripts, maps, and musical scores. It is now a NatMansueto Library, Chiional Historic Landmark.
4. Mansueto Library, Chicago, IL.
The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago is a large glass dome. Who wouldn’t want to study under the high glass ceilings of the Grand Reading Room, which has rows of tables and study corrals. On top of the beautiful architecture, the library also boasts robotic cranes that retrieve the books.
5. Chicago Public Library, Chicago, IL.
The Chicago Public Library was built in 1897 and was the city’s first central public library. It was constructed using rare imported marble, polished brass, and Favrile glass mosaics. It also boasts the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome, which is 38 feet in diameter and is composed of over 30,000 pieces of glass! It is now the Chicago Cultural Center but remains one of the most visited landmarks in Chicago.
6. Seattle Central Library, Seattle, WA.
The Seattle Central Library is eleven stories of glass and steel. Its striking appearance makes it seem as though there are “floating platforms,” and it has been voted one of American’s favorite structures in the US, according to the American Institution of Architects. The library is amazing to look at, but also cool to visit – it holds 1.45 million books and materials and has over 400 public computers. Over 2 million people visited the library the first year it was open in 2004, so join the crowd!
7. Fisher Fine Arts Library, Philadelphia, PA.
The Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania is unique because it was built in 1888, when most structures were fashioned in the marble and granite Romanesque style. The library’s architect, however, wanted the building to reflect the architectural style of Philadelphia’s red brick libraries. Over time, the school’s library outgrew this space and moved elsewhere, but the building stayed a library, and now houses only the fine arts books.
8. University of Michigan Law Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
The Law Library at the University of Michigan is a beautiful building on the law quad. Even if you’ve never wanted to be a lawyer, take a look at the reading room – there’s no place more gorgeous for studying cases! The neogothic room has 50 foot ceilings, stained glass windows, and 11 group study rooms. There is also a light-filled underground addition, though it’s said that study area gets pretty cold.
9. Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, UT.
The Harold B. Lee Library is the main academic library of Brigham Young University, the largest religious and third-largest private university in the US. The library has over 6 million items in its collection, housed on about 98 miles of shelving. The library consistently ranks on the Top Ten University Libraries in the Princeton Review, even topping the list at #1 in 2004. The library is mostly glass, letting in plenty of light. Besides this unique beauty, the library is fascinating because it actually started as a smell collection in the then-principal’s office!
10. Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, UT.
The public library in Salt Lake City celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1998 with a move and upgrade. The building is five stories and shaped like a wedge made of concrete and over 176,368 square feet of glass. The architect used a lot of glass on purpose, enabling the library to use natural lighting and reducing electricity bills. The library boasts a five-story curved glass wall, a 20,000 square foot skylight, and a rooftop garden.
11. Lauinger Library, Washingon, D.C.
The Joseph Mark Lauinger Library is the main library of Georgetown University. It is the center of a seven library system that includes 2.8 million volumes; Lauinger itself houses 1.7 million of these books on six floors! Architecturally, the building is a modern interpretation of Healy Hall, which is the flagship building of Georgetown University, and on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
12. Beinecke Library, New Haven, CT.
The Beinecke Library at Yale University is one of the world’s largest libraries devoted to rare books and manuscripts. The library building itself has a geometric exterior of translucent veined marble, which lets in a small amount of natural light, but protects the materials from sun damage. The sunken levels are darker, making the building look like it floats above the plaza. Inside the library, there is a five story, climate controlled, glass-enclosed tower of books.
13. Indianapolis Public Library, Indianapolis, IN.
The Central branch of the Indianapolis Public Library is a stately mix of old and new. The original structure was built in 1917, in the Greek Doric style. Ninety years later a modern addition was built that is mostly glass and wood. The two styles sound contradictory, but they really balance out and look amazing together. Plus, the massive addition makes even more room for books and reading spaces!
14. Braddock Carnegie Library, Braddock, PA.
The Braddock Carnegie Library was the first Carnegie library in the United States, opening in 1889. It was designed to look eclectically medieval, and originally had a bathhouse in the basement that has since been converted to a pottery studio. The beautiful building was almost demolished in the 1970s, but was saved by a group of library lovers and is now a Historic Landmark.
15. Geisel Library, San Diego, CA.
The Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego is hands-down one of the coolest buildings you will ever see. Called “brutalist architecture,” the building looks as if it were floating. The exterior is all windows, angled like boxes stacked and butted together, on concrete posts. If you thought the name “Geisel” sounded familiar, you’re right! The library is named for major contributor Theodor Seuss Geisel, and houses a collection of his archives. The 8,500 materials include original drawings, notebooks, manuscript drafts, photographs, and memorabilia.