When imagining libraries, a serene, quiet, well lighted, and clean surroundings will automatically pop out in your head. However, the list of libraries you’re about to see are absolutely out of this mould. Some of them might not be ideal places to read, but I would definitely enjoy visiting them.
1. Arma de Instruccion Masiva (Weapon of Mass Instruction) – South America
Artist Raul Lemesoff has taken a 1979 Falcon (a car that represents a dark time in Argentina) and transformed it from a symbol of fear to a mobile library in the shape of a tank.
2. Stuttgart City Library – Stuttgart, Germany
This amazingly weird looking structure is designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi. When it opened in 2011, it got mixed reviews from library connoisseurs, architects, and even the locals. It’s been ridiculed and described as a 2-tone Rubik’s Cube and a box-shaped jail for books. I have a different opinion, though. To me it’s a heaven for nerdy people like me.
3. The Biblioburro: Delivering Books Via Donkey – Columbia
It would be fun to check a mobile library in rural Colombia. Biblioburro (the name of the library) is being operated by Luis Soriano, a primary school teacher during his spare time. Witnessing kids wearing a genuine smile each time he visits their villages in rural Colombia would surely warm anybody’s heart. Using two donkeys, Alfa and Beto to carry loads of books, Soriano spends four hours on each trip just to reach those remote places.
4. Bibliotheque Nationale – Paris, France
This library is composed of 4 towers that are shaped like open books. They are built around a sunken and thickly forested courtyard. It was constructed in 1996 to replace a former library structure that could no longer accommodate expansions. It’s one of the largest in the world boosting 22-story structures.
5. Reading Club 2000 – Manila, Philippines
Reading Club 2000 started when Hernando “Nanie” Guanlao thought of a way to honor and preserve the memory of his parents who inculcated in him the love for reading. He gathered his old textbooks and set them outside his Manila residence to test if the community would be interested to borrow and read them. They were. 12 years later Nanie’s library grew to contain 2,500 books. As an additional service, he also runs a “book bike” service, where he delivers books to poor areas in Manila.
6. Stockholm Public Library – Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden’s first library to apply an open shelf design, the Stockholm Public Library, opened in 1928. When architect Gunnar Asplund and librarian Fredrik Hjelmqvist decided that the people who’ll patronize the library could fetch their own books, librarians all over the globe rejoiced! Recently, its self-service model was revitalized by more drive to infuse a check-outs and returns automation system.
7. Mechanical Libraries: Serving readers 24 Hours A Day – Beijing
Nothing can replace the relaxing rustle of pages, and the smell of dusty tomes, but there are times when night owls like me would love to prowl the night for books even at 3am. That’s why I’m not completely against library vending machines. In a district in Beijing, machines account for 31.6 percent of books loaned. Even if you’re fighting the good fight against the machine overlords, you’ll have to agree that anything that increases the number of books the public consumes can’t be all that bad. Still, it’s not as depressing as a bookless library, right?
8. Trinity College Long Room – Dublin, Ireland
Trinity college, Ireland’s oldest university also houses the largest library in Ireland. The oldest and rarest of its collection is kept in the Long Room. With its more than 200,000 volumes, it’s the largest single-chamber library in the world. The Long Room grabbed the limelight once again recently for being the “unofficial” inspiration for the Jedi Archives in the movie Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
9. Biblioteca Sandro Penna- Perugia, Italy
Nope, that’s not an alien ship you are staring at. It’s not a pink bubblegum candy designed by hello kitty, either! That’s a power house of books providing library services for the people of Perugia, Italy. Biblioteca Sandro Penna, is a public library named after the poet Sandro Penna. It features rose-colored glass walls designed to let sunlight in during daytime and at night it creates a rare glow. The Architect who designed it, Italo Rota, made the three-story disc to exude an appearance of an alien flying saucer.
10. Taipei Public Library – Beitou, Taiwan
The most eco-conscious building in the country is also a famous library in Taiwan. The Beitou branch of the Taipei Public Library system received the highest EEWH rating lately: the diamond rating for being the most eco-friendly structure in the country. All wood used for its construction came from sustainably managed forests. It also uses photovoltaic cells for generating power. To insulate itself from the heat of the sun during daytime, it’s roof is equipped with 20 centimeter layer of soil. this bulding is also designed to collect rainwater to be used for toilet flushing. Not to forget, they have an interesting line up of books.
11. The Kenyan Camel Library: Serving Nomadic Populations – Kenya
Before you assume donkeys are the only mammals able to carry around a library by merely using their backs, meet the library camels of Kenya. The camels carry books and some camping gear. Traveling librarians need a place to rest after a long journey across the desert. The caravan caters to nomadic communities which are mostly illiterate due to lack of access to books. The Kenya National Library Service unleashed the program in 1985 and kept on sending book-wielding hump-backed service animals on the deserts of Kenya.
12. Boston Public Library – Boston, USA
The Boston Public Library is the 2nd largest library in north America. It opened in 1848. With its over 24 million books it’s undoubtedly one of the biggest libraries in the U.S. Another worthy fact to mention is that it’s also the very first public and free-to-all library – and the first book house to loan books to patrons.
13. Vasconcelos Library – Mexico City, Mexico
The 409,000-square-foot Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City is also known as the Megabiblioteca (a megalibrary). To me it’s a haven for real bibliophiles. The architect, Alberto Kalach, created a structure that looks like it’s been taken straight out of a Matrix-induced dream – with books kept on crystal shelves seemingly suspended in mid-air, large industrial steel fittings, and five grid-like levels. The 500,000 books are displayed over an open courtyard boosting gigantic striped whale bones that appear to be floating up from the ceiling. Everything is surrounded by a beautiful and massive botanical garden.
14. Picture Book Library – Iwaki City, Japan
To the joy of Japanese preschoolers in Iwaki, Fukushima, the Picture Book Museum was built in 2005. Turned off by the strict and conservative atmosphere of traditional libraries, the founder of Picture Book Library allowed architect Tadao Ando ultimate freedom to design a space that would be irresistible to kids. And he had only one condition: To make sure the book covers were highly visible. The end result was the vibrant, colorful, and highly celebrated library considered by many as a new paradigm in educational spaces in Japan, and an architectural masterpiece.
15. Epos Book Boat: Floating Books In The Fjords
In the Fyords, a book boat known as Epos travels to more than 250 small communities on islands every year between September and April. On board the vessel are some 6,000 volumes, a couple of librarians, a cook, a captain, and one or two vaguely titled “entertainers” (Contortionists? Clowns? Exotic dancers? What’s that you say? Three-in-one? What’s the most fitting entertainment when snowed into their abodes for months on end?). During summertime, the boat/library turns into a leisure cruise ferry. It all started in 1959, and is funded by the libraries of the three counties it serves.
16. Nassau Public Library – Nassau, Bahamas
The Nassau Public Library has street-cred. In the past it housed criminals. Built in the late 1700s as a prison, the octagon-shaped building was turned into a library around 1837. It’s shape has helped accommodate its treasures for each 8 sides holds a portion of the library’s 28,000-volume collection.