Although libraries might seem like relics from a time when Internet didn’t exist, they’re still vital spaces for visitors to read, relax and enjoy all the information they have to offer. While their most important offerings are the materials they contain, there’s no reason not to make their housing as magnificent as it can be. From architecture that’s stood the test of time to structures that have made a splash in recent years, we’ve compiled a list of just a few of the most magical libraries around the world:
Musashino Art University Museum and Library (Japan)
Described by architect Sou Fujimoto as the ‘library most library-like’, he envisioned a single bookshelf in the shape of a spiral forming the library itself. It’s the most quintessential library out there, since it’s quite literally made of bookshelves.
Phillips Exeter Academy Library (US)
This award-winning library looks more like a university or public building than what it actually is – the library of what is arguably US’ most exclusive boarding school, Phillips Exeter Academy Library. With alumni like Dan Brown and Mark Zuckerberg, the school is incredibly reputable, justifying the need for a remarkable library.
Stuttgart City Library (Germany)
Stuttgart’s City Library seems closer to the set of a high-budget dystopian movie than a public library, but the completely white interior is traversed and enjoyed by book lovers regularly. And the exterior is similarly ingenius – the 40m tall building may seem grey and unexciting in the daytime, but transforms to a glowing blue cube come nightfall.
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum (Japan)
When prominent and prolific novelist Shiba Ryotaro passed away in 1996, his personal collection of over 20, 000 books was placed in this beautifully constructed space. Next to the late author’s house, the memorial museum is in a serene natural area of Osaka, and was designed to emulate various facets of Ryotaro’s writing and ideology.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (US)
Yale’s collection of rare manuscripts and books is almost unbelievable, with one of the original Gutenberg Bibles being just one of many historical documents. As is fitting for a priceless collection, the Beinecke Library is a stunning piece of architecture.
Bodleian Library (England)
As the main research library of one of the world’s best universities, the Bodleian Library is a stately sight. The most recognisable of its buildings is the dome-topped Radcliffe Camera, oft photographed as one of the main symbols of the university. A couple of other buildings have achieved similar popularity – the Divinity School was used as the Hogwarts hospital wing in the first two Harry Potter films, while Duke Humfrey’s Library was used for filming the Hogwarts Library.
State Library of Victoria (Australia)
Victoria’s State Library is home to a multitude of treasures, but the most awe-inspiring place within it is the La Trobe Reading Room- stretching up to almost 35m high, the design is said to mimic the British Museum’s Library. With a number of balconies housing old books and a gorgeous dome-shaped skylight making for a remarkable piece of architecture, the Reading Room is well worth a visit.
The Library of Trinity College (Ireland)
Trinity College’s library is frequently extolled as an outstanding piece of 16th century architecture, for good reason. The dark wood and strategically placed busts of philosophers and writers associated with Trinity give it an archaic feel, making you feel as though you’re stepping back in time. It’s also the largest library in Ireland, and is home to the famous Book of Kells.
Royal Portuguese Reading Room (Brazil)
Although not most people’s ideas of Rio de Janeiro, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room is Gothic architecture at its finest, with ornate wall decorations and a gorgeous chandelier. It’s home to the largest collection of Portuguese texts outside of Portugal, and welcomes in around 6,000 new titles every year.
Library of Congress (US)
The enormous library is the second-largest in the world, and is committed to having universal, all-encompassing collections – two-thirds of the new books it acquires each year are in languages other than English. It’s also a magnificent piece of history, housing Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection in rooms resplendent in rich detailing and dizzyingly beautiful ceilings.
Austrian National Library (Vienna, Austria)
Vienna is renowned as the birthplace of several classical composers, so it’s natural that some of the elegance of the culture seeps into its architecture. The baroque feel, coupled with the over 200, 000 book collection and four Venetian globes, makes any visitor feel like royalty.