The Nation’s Most Breathtaking Libraries

on August 28, 2015

Central Library | Seattle, WA

Dreamed up as a celebration of books, the 11-story Central Library in downtown Seattle, WA, is the flagship of the Seattle Public Library system. The striking glass and steel structure is irregularly shaped and follows a floating platform design. Features of this unique library include a third-floor \"living room\" and the \"books spiral,\" the library\'s solution to displaying the nonfiction books without disrupting the Dewy Decimal System classification by dividing floors. Book lovers can get more information on the library here.

Bapst Library | Boston College

Named for the first president of Boston College, Rev. John Bapst, S.J., Bapst Library serves the needs of the Art, Architecture, Museum Studies and Photography departments of the university. Also known for housing the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books, Bapst is a work of art in and of itself. Stunning stained glass windows adorn rooms of the library, the towering panes illustrating various themes. Among other sources, rooms take their inspiration from epic poetry; seals of the Jesuit colleges and universities of the Americas; William Shakespeare; orators, authors and political leaders of America and Geoffrey Chaucer. Visit the website for more information.

George Peabody Library | Johns Hopkins University

This isn\'t your average research library. The stunning George Peabody Library, housed in the Peabody Institute of Music, is also a sought-after Baltimore, MD, wedding and event venue—for good reason. From the black-and-white marble floor rise cast iron columns joined by decorative railings with classical embellishments. The glow from the massive skylight hovering at 61 feet illuminates the gold gilded interior and over 300,000 titles, most of which date from the 18th to early 19th centuries. Opened in 1878, the library\'s vast collection remains available to the public. Get more information here.

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library

You may recognize this famous 4-story library for its appearances in such films as The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Breakfast at Tiffany\'s (1961), but the historic landmark in Midtown Manhattan is much more than a beautiful setting. The library, opened on 5th Avenue in 1911 and more commonly referred to as Main Branch, is outfitted with elegant details at every turn, including the bronze bases of its flag poles, originally cast at Tiffany Studios. Upon ascending the stair to the library\'s entrance, one passes the watchful gaze of Lord Astor and Lady Lenox—don\'t forget to greet these two Tennessee marble guard lions, nicknamed \"Patience\" and \"Fortitude\" during the Great Depression. Learn more.

Library of Congress | Washington, D.C.

The world\'s largest library also happens to be our nation\'s oldest federal cultural institution. The finely decorated buildings comprising the Capitol Hill Library of Congress (LOC) campus connect by subterranean passages to eliminate the hassle of multiple security checks. The most widely recognized, the Thomas Jefferson Building, is known for its decadent Great Hall and iconic stained glass dome. As the research arm of Congress, the LOC\'s objective is to provide confidential sources and objective analysis to aid Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties. However, it\'s not all serious—the library\'s Serial and Government Publications Division also contains the world\'s largest collection of comics. Visit the website for more info.

Christian Voigt Photography |

The Morgan Library & Museum | New York, NY

Returning to NYC, The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of J. P. Morgan, Jr. and originally his father\'s own collection, has remained open to the public since 1924. Over the years, the library has spawned a sprawling campus, joining with J.P. Morgan\'s Madison Avenue brownstone by a garden court completed in 1991. At once mammoth and inviting, The Morgan Library & Museum fulfills its purpose of engaging visitors through its enchanting design and curious contents. See more here.

Uris Library | Cornell University

Home to over 8 million printed volumes, Cornell University\'s Uris Library offers unique glimpses into America\'s past. Among other notable rare holdings is Abraham Lincoln\'s Gettysburg Address, but this library shines for more than just its contents. The presentation of the pieces is a book lover\'s dream, with narrow walkways skirting towering shelves which overlook the heart of the building from behind ornate railings. Learn how you can visit this breathtaking researcher\'s wonderland here.

Suzzallo Library | University of Washington

In the running for one of America\'s most recognizable libraries for its Collegiate Gothic style is the University of Washington\'s Suzzallo Library. The colossal Reading Room is adorned with features such as detailed frieze, crowned oak bookshelves and a painted timber vaulted ceiling, all illuminated by towering stained glass windows. The library\'s grand staircase inspires the sense of solemn reverence former University President Henry Suzzallo felt libraries should evoke, describing them as \"cathedrals of learning.\" Experience it here.

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

Literary Splendor

Setting foot in a library is an experience unlike any other—dusty tomes envelop one in euphoric thirst for enlightenment. Regardless of the building\'s age, a library\'s sense of all-encompassing wisdom deeply stirs within readers a desire to disappear between a book\'s crisp pages. Whether you\'re feeling casually bookish or looking to be truly inspired, America\'s libraries—both modern and historic—will captivate scholars of all walks of life.