For many of us, when we think of libraries we think of huge stacks of books, people reading quietly while sitting near an old, classic bookshelf. However, you’re be surprised to learn about some extraordinary libraries from around the world that not only offer a sanctuary from the city’s worldly trappings through the writings one experiences in the books they read, but also by means of a totally novel medium; at least with respect to the typical idea of what a library should look like to you or me. Below you can find only five, though there are many more extraordinary libraries, that spark the imagination, enlighten the senses and transport you into a whole new world, be it in the future, the past or some sort of parallel universe.
1. Stuttgart City Library – Stuttgart, Germany
If you’ve ever been to Stuttgart, then you already know this is one of the most beautiful and fabled of Germany’s urban centers. An important economic and social center, it’s also holds a center place in culture and education. Designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi, the new Stuttgart City Library opened in 2011 to mixed reviews from locals, library enthusiasts, and architects. At first glance, you’re stunned by this incredible pale white and minimalism take on the library’s arrangement. The fences delimiting the hallways are of a rather simple structure at first glance, but they blend well with the rest of the design. Some have mocked it as a block-shaped prison for books, and a sterile unfriendly environment, but once you get in, you know there’s something really special and lecture inviting about it.
2. Trinity College Long Room – Dublin, Ireland
You can’t get classier than Dublin’s Trinity College Long Room. This extraordinary display of architecture is one of the oldest and largest libraries in London and houses a impressive collection – only in one of its room lie 200,000 volumes. Most impressive, indeed, but aside from books, the library also houses various national emblems and artifacts like the Brian Boru harp (the one from the Guinness logo).
3. St. Catherine’s Monastery – South Sinai, Egypt
In a region of holy pilgrimage and great historical value lies St. Catherine’s Monastery – officially the oldest continually operated library in the world. It was first open to the public in 564 AD by Byzantine emperor Justinian. It currently holds over 3,000 religious and educational manuscripts and approximately 8,000 printed books, including first editions of Homer and Plato.
4. Boston Public Library – Boston, USA
We can’t go about this list without including a library from the new world, where some of the most beautiful such institutions have been created along the years. Opened in 1848, the Boston Public Library is the second largest library in the United States, with over 24 million volumes. What also makes it significantly important, in historical context, is that it was the first library to allow open to all free access, no matter the race or ethnicity, and also the first one to lend out volumes to patrons.
5. Library of Congress – Washington, DC, USA
What better way to top off the list other than the greatest library in the world. Housing over 151.8 million items sitting on 838 miles of bookshelves, the Library of Congress is certainly a behemoth of culture! As an interesting and fun fact, in the myriad of books it houses also lies the smallest book in the world a 1/25″ x 1/25″ copy of Old King Cole, the pages of which can only be turned with the help of a needle.