As much as we swipe through our handy tablets, there’s a romance to bound books that can’t be matched by even the snazziest screens. We’ll admit, we’re obsessed with good reads—and perhaps even more so with the buildings that house them. Our recent shoot on the steps of the New York Public Library Main Branch inspired us to seek out extraordinary libraries all over the globe, and we’ve found five that should definitely be on every lit-lover’s bucket list.
1. Dublin’s Darling: The Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
Over four centuries old, this landmark is visually stunning and peacefully solemn (i.e. the utopian ideal of libraries). Its collection boasts The Book of Kells, not hidden in a vault, but right out the open to view with your own two eyes. But it might be the slowest read of your life, as the library staff only turns the page every few months.
2. Modern Marvel: The Seattle Central Library, Seattle, Washington
This Rem Koolhaas–designed gem was created with function at the forefront, but it doesn’t sacrifice form. The outside is sharply geometric and the inside is packed with pretty original details. Glowing yellow escalator? Yes. Video art sculptures embedded in the walls? It’s got ’em. Printing block–inspired wood floor? You bet. Just imagine reading inside a funhouse…in the best sense possible.
3. Rarest of the Rare: Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut
The exterior of this library is a cold, modern monolith. But step inside and the vibe changes dramatically. Large translucent marble panels protect the priceless collection (which includes a Gutenberg Bible and the cryptic Voynich manuscript) while still letting in seams of diffused, glowing sunlight.
4. Digital Love: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
The original Great Library of Alexandria, built in the Ptolemaic period, was intended to house every book ever written. But in one of the biggest bummers of ancient history, its thousands of papyrus scrolls were turned to kindling when the whole thing burned to the ground. The modern incarnation stands on the same site and holds something just as ambitious—the only mirrored back-up copy of the Internet Archive.
5. Let the Sunshine In: Taipei Public Library Beitou Branch, Taipei, Taiwan
Located in the Beitou Hot Spring Park, this LEED Diamond–certified structure was built to the absolute highest green standards. Its sloped roof is designed to collect rainwater and humidity, and is equipped with solar panels. The designer placed windows to optimize cross-ventilation and added lower book shelves to allow for all the natural light readers could want.