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We all know that there are famous books and renowned authors, but there are also famous libraries. People travel to these stack to read, learn and just to take in their sheer beauty. Here are five libraries (in the U.S., otherwise this would be a very long post) that are well worth the trip, not to mention a few hours of exploration.
We’ll start with the most obvious, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Its millions of manuscripts, books, recordings photographs and maps make it the largest library in the world. This not-so-little national treasure was established in 1800, but has only had 13 librarians during its storied history. Plus, look how pretty.
The George Peabody Library in Baltimore is known for its architecture as well as its books. Sit in the open, sky-lit atrium, flip through some bound volumes and feel very small. Or you can perch by one of the cast-iron balconies — there are five levels, so plenty to choose from. Random fact: The library was created to house the greatest and latest in literature and every other realm of knowledge, except law and medicine.
Next up, we celebrate free books at the Boston Public Library, the first free municipal library in the U.S. The library was founded in 1848, but it has since outgrown the schoolhouse it was first located in. Be one of the 3 million people to visit this National Historic Landmark each year, and don’t leave without stopping by Bates Hall, famous for its arched ceilings, limestone balcony and oak bookcases.
Not all of the U.S.’s famous libraries are old. The Seattle Public Library, which opened its new central library in 2004, is an 11-story geometric structure that looks like a shape you might calculate the area of on a standardized test. The glass and steel building is as quirky on the inside as it is on the out; the entire nonfiction collection is displayed on a running book spiral.
The last one isn’t open to the public, but you can take a video tour. Jay Walker, an American entrepreneur, has a private library that is home to more than just books. The 3,600-square foot levels includes a Sputnik suspended from the ceiling, fossilized dinosaur eggs and a James Bond-film chandelier. The library was such a priority for Walker, that he literally built his New England house around its design.
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