Libraries represent man’s most successful attempt in democratizing knowledge. In the modern age, these magnificent institutions have also developed into important social structures that facilitate not just the reading of books, but a meeting point of different people, different ideas, discussion and debate. Libraries, especially the ones featured on this list tend to be the epicenter of activity in neighborhood in which they are located. Here is a list of 10 of the best libraries in the world, ones that we wished we could spend whole days in, if only they were closer home.
#1 Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
The Library of Congress is effectively the national library of the United States and the oldest federal cultural institution in the US. The library consists of three different buildings and is the largest library in the world. The library is open to the public, but only members of congress and other important government officials may check out books. The library also serves an important function as the “library of last resort” in the US, ensuring the availability of certain items to various libraries around the United States. The holdings of the library are extremely impressive, they include – over 32 million books, more than 61 million manuscripts, a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a perfect vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible (one of only four in the world), over 1 million newspapers from the last three centuries, over 5 million maps, 6 million pieces of sheet music, and more than 14 millions photos and prints.
#2 Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK
The Bodleian Library is the library of the University of Oxford. Established in 1602 it is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. The Library has over 11 million items, and many items of historical import, including four copies of the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, and Shakespeare’s First Folio (from 1623.) The Library consists of multiple buildings, perhaps the most visually interesting of which is Radcliffe Camera. It’s the earliest circular library in England, and has appeared in multiple films, including “Young Sherlock Holmes”, “The Saint”, “The Red Violin”, and “The Golden Compass”.
#3 Reading Room at the British Museum, London, England
The Reading Room at the British Museum is found in the center of the Great Court of the British Museum. It features a domed roof, with the ceiling made of a variety of papier-mâché. For much of the Room’s history, access was only granted to registered researches, and during this period many notable figures studied at the Library, including Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Mahatma Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Lenin, and H.G. Wells. The Library’s collection was moved to the new British Library in 2000 and the Reading Room now houses an information center and a curated collection of books relating to history, art, travel and other subjects relevant to the collection’s of the British Museum.
#4 Boston Public Library
Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first publicly funded library in the US. It has since grown to its present collection size of 22 million items, making it the second largest library in the United States. The library’s McKim building was built in 1895 and contains many beautiful murals, including Edward Abbey’s most famous that depicts the legend of the Holy Grail. The main room of the McKim building is Bates Hall, known for its grand coffered ceiling. The research collection at McKim is made up of over 1.7 million rarities including many medieval manuscripts, incunabula, early Shakespeare that includes a First Folio, colonial Boston records, a major Daniel Defoe collection, and the libraries of many famous men of history including John Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, and Nathaniel Bowditch.
#5 New York Public Library, New York, New York
The famous New York Public Library is awe inspiring in its layout, scope and size. It is the the third largest library in North America, has over 50 million items in its collection. It consists of 87 libraries serving 3.5 million people. The Rose Main Reading Room is a treat for the eyes too. The Library special collections include the first Gutenberg Bible to come to America. One of the most recognizable libraries in the world due to its appearances in many Hollywood movies, and even a key setting in the movies “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Ghost busters”.
Contributed By Sonia Narula