The 12 Most Beautiful Libraries in the US

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George Peabody Library
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2 / 13
Beinecke Rare Book Library
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Beinecke Rare Book Library

Guests to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University are greeted by a glass tower of books rising through the center of the building. Here, peruse the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon's Birds of America (1827).

3 / 13
Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress
Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with more than 164 million items. The Great Hall has marble floors, stained glass ceilings, mosaics and paintings.

4 / 13
Harold Washington Library Center
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Harold Washington Library Center

Five giant owls peer down at Chicago from the top of the massive Harold Washington Library Center. Eight of its 10 floors have exhibit halls, literature, publications and history resources. The ninth floor is an indoor winter garden. 

5 / 13
Geisel Library
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Geisel Library

The unusual architecture of the University of California San Diego's Geisel Library is fitting of its namesake, beloved author Theodore Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. In its "Special Collections," the library contains his original drawings and manuscripts. 

6 / 13
Milton Latter Memorial Library
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Milton Latter Memorial Library

The Milton H. Latter Memorial Library in New Orleans is in a circa-1907 mansion once home to silent film star Marguerite Clark complete with period-furnished reading rooms, Czechoslovakian chandeliers, mahogany paneling, French frescoes and Dutch murals. 

7 / 13
George Peabody Library
©Patrick Gillespie/Flickr, Creative Commons
George Peabody Library

The George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University opened in 1878 and has five tiers of ornamental balconies crowned with a skylight. The circulating library was transferred to the city of Baltimore, but its permanent collection is still on-site, open to the public. 

8 / 13
University of Michigan Law Library
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University of Michigan Law Library

The University of Michigan Law Library's main gem is a reading room with 50-foot vaulted cathedral ceilings, stained glass windows and cork floors. The library's 500,000 titles are housed in "the stacks" on several floors and The Smith addition adds more space underground. 

9 / 13
Salt Lake City Library
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Salt Lake City Public Library

The Salt Lake City Public Library is one of the most unique structures in Utah with a six-story, curving walkable wall leading from the ground to a rooftop garden, and spiraling fireplaces on four floors.

 

10 / 13
New York Public Library
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New York Public Library

As the second largest library in the United States, the New York Public Library has guards at the entrance; two famous marble lions nicknamed "Patience" and "Fortitude." These beloved sentries protect the Rose Reading Room, museum-quality art exhibits and a phenomenal maps collection. 

 

11 / 13
Slover Public Library
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Slover Public Library

Slover Public Library in Norfolk, Virginia, has a six-story, glass-walled addition, housed proudly next to the 115-year-old building. There are more than 160,000 books, a coffee shop, touch screens specifically for genealogy research and video recording equipment.

12 / 13
Nashville Public Library
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Nashville Public Library

In addition to books and reading services, the Nashville Public Library offers wellness programming such as cooking and exercise classes alongside puppet shows in the library and around town.

13 / 13
Los Angeles Public Library
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Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library serves the largest population of any public library in the U.S. The building features ancient Egyptian Mediterranean Revival influences including mosaic pyramids, sphinxes, celestial mosaics and a four-part mural depicting the history of California. 

By Lisa Kaylor on 09/14/2017

Historically libraries were a quiet place of contemplation and learning.

Libraries today are transforming into centers of the community by offering concerts, community programs, historical displays and even fine art galleries. Some libraries are works of art themselves with displays of architectural feats and winners of numerous design awards.