20 Libraries That Will Make You Forget About Netflix

Matthew Holland
These spectacular libraries are a bookworm's Narnia

Public libraries are one of the main components of a successful city and a thriving community. They allow every individual, rich or poor, the ability to intellectually and personally grow. While most cities have some sort of a library inside of them, a few go above and beyond in some way. We've compiled a list of some of the most interesting, beautiful, and modern libraries across the United States. From robotic book retrieval systems to breathtaking views, each library has way more than books to offer its visitors.

Although we are knee-deep in the era of social media and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, public libraries still offer one of the best forms of free entertainment - reading. Whether you want to crack open the latest Stephen King novel or listen to an audio book while sipping coffee, these gorgeous libraries will make you forget that Netflix or Facebook even exist! 


George Peabody Library[1]

17 E Mt Vernon Pl
Baltimore, MD 21202

The George Peabody Library has been a facility of learning since its opening in 1878. The library is located in the Peabody Institute of Music and contains more than 300,000 books; but it is truly famous for its architectural beauty.  The stack room contains 5 tiers of beautifully-designed iron balconies which reach 61 feet up to the skylight. The ironwork, black and white marble floor, and the warm elegance of the building make it a popular space for weddings, cocktail parties, or dances. 


San Francisco Public Library[2]

100 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94102

The main library of San Francisco is a 375,000 square foot, Beaux Arts-style building that cost over $120 million to build. The granite used in the facade came from the same quarry that the other civic center buildings were constructed. The interior is immense and stretches 5 stories tall and is connected by bridges. A wall that is lit with names of more than a hundred authors illuminates the grand staircase. The San Francisco Public Library contains around 3 million books in total, making it not only beautiful, but filled with knowledge.


Geisel Library[3]

9500 Gilman Dr
La Jolla, CA 92093

Although the design came long before the name, it is fitting that such a unique building would be renamed in honor of Theodor Giesel, also known as Dr. Seuss, and his wife Audrey. The concrete structure was designed to overlook the canyon that is near the University of California-San Diego and stretches eight stories into the sky. Many of the study spaces are located in the upper floors and allow students and visitors to take a break from reading and enjoy the wonderful scenery around the Geisel Library. 


Mill Valley Public Library[4]

375 Throckmorton Ave
Mill Valley, CA 94941

Surrounded by redwoods, this warm and beautifully decorated library is a must-see if you find yourself in the area. The building contains a lot of natural wood, fine art, and handcrafted furniture. The library even has a working fireplace to add to the ambiance. You can also enjoy time out on the deck with floor to ceiling windows overlooking redwood trees, a stream, and a park. The Mill Valley Public Library is an absolutely picturesque environment to sit back and unwind with a good book. 


Suzzallo Library[5]

University of Washington,
Seattle, WA 98195

The construction of the Suzallo Library began in 1926 and was completely finished in 1963. The structure resembles a gothic style cathedral in design and features many of the same beauties. The exterior of the building consists of sandstone, brick, and a slated roof. The windows are stained glass and visitors will also find eighteen terra cotta statues surrounding the outside of the building. Once inside, the reading room is most impressive at 65 feet high, 52 feet wide, and 250 feet long. In 1927, was called, "the most beautiful (room) on the continent." 


Stinson Public Library[6]

409 S Main St
Anna, IL 62906

In 1903, a Robert Burns Stinson left his entire estate to the city and described in his will that it was to be used for the constructing of a fireproof public library. The Stinson Memorial Public Library was magnificently designed by Burley Griffin and consists of a limestone base, a concrete band of windows, and tall concrete pillars. The limestone on the outside was designed to look rough and natural and blends into the landscape. The building was dedicated in 1914 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 


Bell Whittington Public Library[7]

2400 Memorial Pkwy
Portland, TX 78374

On October 11, 1933, the ChatWork Civic Club of Portland, Texas decided to build a library. Within just one short month, the structure was completed and contained a little over 300 books, most of which were donated. The small building lasted for more than 20 years before the Bell family graciously donated money to create a new library. In 1984, the current library was constructed and has since been completely renovated. The Bell Whittington Public Library offers tons of extra activities to its community and is a remarkable story of what a donations and devotion can produce in a community. 


St. Helena Public Library[8]

1492 Library Ln
St Helena, CA 94574

The current St. Helena Public Library was constructed in 1979 and is home to much more than a standard public library. The world famous Robert Louis Stevenson Museum[9] is in the west wing of the building and contains more Stevenson artifacts than anywhere else in the world. Located in the building is also the Napa Valley Wine Library, which is a collection of more than 3,000 books related to wine, including some rare titles from the 19th and 20th century. In the backyard of the library there is also a small vineyard of 91 vines that was planted in 2000. 


Southern Area Public Library[10]

120 East Main Street
Lost Creek, WV  26385

The Southern Area Public Library is known as "the Little Library with the Big Heart." Although the library serves an area with a small population of approximately 498, it provides services that match the libraries in more prominent cities. This dedication is what earned it the title of "Best Small Library in America" in 2013. The library helps a multitude of charities, offers afterschool snacks to children, and is loved among the homeschool community for providing classes and tutoring. This small town library is truly showing the world that no matter your size, you can truly make a big difference. 


Shaker Heights Public Library[11]

16500 Van Aken Boulevard
Shaker Heights, OH 44120

Named one of America's busiest libraries, the Shaker Library circulates around 1.3 million titles annually. The library has also been highly rated by both the Library Journal and Hennen's American Public Library Ratings. The current location was established in 1993 when the library took over an old elementary school that was constructed in 1926. The gorgeous white pillars and brick facade give this outstanding library a regal setting fit for the multitude of books housed within.


Camden Public Library[12]

55 Main St
Camden, ME 04843

The Camden Public Library offers visitors some of the best views as well as an interesting past. The history of the library dates back to 1796, to a small building housing only 200 books. Between 1796 and 1892, the library was placed in several locations until the citizens decided, in 1896, that they were going to raise the funds to build a new public library. After many years of fundraising, the building was finished in 1928. The library building is set perfectly on a hill overlooking the harbor and offers a beautiful panorama all year. The Harbor Park and Amphitheater is adjacent to the library, offering not only beautiful locations to read and relax, but fun events all year long.


Seattle Public Library[13]

1000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

The Public Library is an eleven-story glass and metal building that has been said by the New Yorker to be, "the most important new library to be built in a generation, and the most exciting..." The glass and metal structure blends in with the city scape and skyline. The designers wanted to create a space that is designed for its use, rather than finding a place for each library service within the building. One of the greatest examples of this architectural idea is the "Book Spiral." The "Spiral" is a way of organizing books without breaking them into sections by placing the books in order and using a spiral ramp going up the building, making it easy find any particular book.


Pine River Library[14]

395 Bayfield Center Dr
Bayfield, CO 81122

In 1930, a group of six women who wanted more reading materials began their journey to create a library. The women succeeded in 1934 and purchased the first library in Bayfield, CO. Although the current building was finished in 2004, the heart of community involvement is very much still alive in the Pine River Library. The library boasts many state-of-the-art technologies, a new fireplace, and even solar panels. A unique and special section of the library is undoubtedly the 17,000 square foot Community Garden that was constructed by members of the community and features a greenhouse, reading spaces, and a fruit orchard.  


New York Public Library[15]

5th Ave at 42nd St
New York, NY 10018

The Stephen A. Schwarzman building, or the Main Branch of the New York Public Library, is a tourist destination and historic landmark in Manhattan. The branch was opened in 1911 and features many immaculate rooms, statues, and designs. The exterior consists of 20,000 blocks of stone and two marble lions guard the entrances. The entire building is breathtaking, but the Main Reading Room is truly spectacular measuring at 78 feet by 297 feet or the length of two city blocks. You can sit down and study at one of the long oak tables underneath the fifty-two-foot tall ceilings that are covered in murals of blue skies. The New York Public Library has been one of the most important institutions of America's intellectual development and should be a stop on any trip to NYC. 


Salt Lake City Public Library[16]

210 East 400 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

The Salt Lake City Public Library is a state-of-the-art, imaginative building constructed in 2003 and designed by the internationally acclaimed architect, Moshe Safdie. The building is 240,000 square feet, 6 stories tall, and holds nearly one million books and materials. On the lower level there are shops and galleries while the top floors contain the reading and study rooms; far away from all the noise. Each floor is fitted with a spiral fireplace that creates an illusion down on the street below of a column of flame. The entire building is full of massive windows, allowing natural light in and offering a great view of the city and distanced mountains.


Fisher Fine Arts Library[17]

220 S 34th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Located on the University of Pennsylvania, the fiery red brick and sandstone exterior of the Fisher Fine Arts Library resembles both a castle and a cathedral. The library was constructed in 1890 and dedicated in 1891 and has since been named an architectural masterpiece. The Main Reading Room is a grand Victorian space that stretches four stories tall and features a large skylight. The south wall of the Reading Room is full of windows that light up the other interior rooms. Anyone can visit the library and with a valid ID, you can explore much of the interior. 


Joe and Rika Mansueto Library[18]

1100 E 57th St
Chicago, IL 60637

Known as "The Egg" on the campus of the University of Chicago, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library is a modern, intelligently designed structure that, under its glass dome, can contain millions of books. The temperature-controlled glass dome allows students to take in nature and view the surrounding gothic facades around campus while diving into their studies. Most brilliantly designed, this library can hold up to 3.5 million volumes of literature through its unique automated storage and retrieval system. When a student requests a book, robotic cranes retrieve the correct bins and then the circulation workers collect the correct book and deliver it to the student. The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library is no doubt the library of the future. 


James B. Hunt Jr. Library[19]

1070 Partners Way
Raleigh, NC 27606

The James B. Hunt Jr. Library opened in 2013 and is another roomy and modern library that features the latest technological advances. The library was designed by the Norwegian architectural firm, Snøhetta, which also designed the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a world-renowned library. The library features a robotic retrieval system and a Skyline Terrace study area where you can enjoy the sun and nature. The modern design is both attractive and eco-friendly, as 31% of the materials used were recycled and lighting is natural or solar powered. 


Armstrong Browning Library[20]

710 Speight Ave
Waco, TX 76706

The Armstrong Browning Library is an elegant and tranquil place that attracts more than 25,000 visitors every year. It is primarily used to hold the collections of the English poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning. The building was constructed in Italian Renaissance style with exterior walls of limestone and granite and more than 60 gorgeous stained glass windows. The beautiful architecture and handcrafted furnishings continue to draw more and more people each year to this luxurious library.


Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library[21]

Yale University
121 Wall St
New Haven, CT

At Yale University, the Beinecke Library contains one of the world's largest collection of rare books and manuscripts. It serves as a research center for students, faculty, and scholars. The building is a six story tower with a rectangular windowless exterior hoisted up by four piers at each corner, which create the illusion that the building is floating in mid air. The exterior is constructed with translucent veined marble that allows light in, but provides protection from direct sunlight, allowing each volume within to remain in pristine condition. But if the rare books and manuscripts aren't quite enough to attract you, the strange architecture and design should pique your interest.

Have you been to any of these awesome public libraries? Do you know of one that should have made our list? Tell us below, and don't forget to share with your bibliophilic friends!


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