Few buildings inspire quite like libraries. A good library, like a good cathedral, should inspire a sense of awe and wonder, spark curiosity, and encourage quiet reflection. When stacks and stacks of books rise around you, whether they’re dusty, arcane tomes or clean volumes with fresh spines, you feel like you’re in good company. You’re surrounded by the life works of countless scholars, all seekers of knowledge and wisdom, just like you. They were doing important work, or work that at least was important to them. You can tell: they wrote it down.
Good libraries don’t just inspire students, however; they also inspire architects. Housing knowledge is a solemn duty, after all. Generations of students will pass through its halls in a vulnerable state, stressed and searching for answers. And one day, their own work might just grace that library’s shelves. If their works find their way into any of these hallowed halls, they will have reason to be happy.
TU Delft Library, Netherlands
From the outside, the library at TU Delft appears to be a cone rising out of the ground, giving few hints about the stunning interior. Designed by Dutch firm Mecanoo, the library won the Dutch National Steel Prize in 1998 in the buildings of steel and hybrid constructions category.
via flickr / Jan van der Heul
George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
Designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind, the Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins contains five tiers of cast-iron balconies that rise a total of 61 feet. It opened in 1878.
via flickr / Logan Hicks
Codrington Library, Oxford University, England
All Soul’s College at Oxford University is home to Codrington Library, which opened in 1751. Of its 185,000 volumes, about one-third were produced before 1800.
via flickr / Biker Jun
Law Library, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Built on the foundation of a former laboratory building, the University of Zurich’s Law Library opened in 2004 and features six elliptical galleries that almost appear to float beneath a glass dome.
via flickr / mcsonix
University of Toronto Rare Book Library, Canada
The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library opened in 1973 and is named after a miller who settled in the area after migrating from Yorkshire. Thomas Fisher’s great-grandsons, Sidney and Charles Fisher, donated their collections of Shakespeare and many 20th century authors to the library.
via flickr / mandalaybus
Harper Reading Room, University of Chicago, Illinois
The Harper Memorial Library, which contains the Cathey Learning Center at the University of Chicago, opened its doors in 1912. Its many connections through passages and bridges symbolize the interdisciplinary nature of the university.
via flickr / Angie McMonigal
Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
The Long Room at Trinity College Library was finished in 1732 and stretches 213 feet and contains 200,000 volumes.
via flickr / jeromecourtial
University of Michigan Law Library, Michigan
Built in 1931, this library is considered the largest building dedicated exclusively to a law library in the world.
via flickr / Janet’s View2012
Duke Humfrey Library, University of Oxford, England
Bodleian’s oldest reading room at the University of Oxford, Duke Humfrey’s Library was built in 1487. Duke Humfrey donated 281 manuscripts to the university on his death in 1447, but only three remain.
via flickr / diliff
Mansueto Library, University of Chicago, Illinois
Completed in 2011, not only does the Mansueto Library house a bright, unique reading room, but it also uses an innovative automated storage and retrieval system for its 3.5 million volumes.
via flickr / Travis Stansel
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Connecticut
The exterior uses translucent marble panels that allow subdued sunlight in from outside during the day, and emits a soft glow from interior light at night.
via flickr / sacmclubs
The Reading Room at Suzzallo Library, University of Washington, Washington
Suzzallo Library opened in 1926 and reflects Henry Suzzallo’s belief that universities should be “cathedrals of learning” with its Gothic styling.
via flickr / +Russ
Linderman Library, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania,
Linderman Library dates back to 1877. Designed by Addison Hutton, Lehigh founder Asa Packer had it built for and named after his late daughter, Lucy Parker Linderman.
via flickr / mrsammy7
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Centre, Humboldt University, Germany
Completed in 2009, the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Centre was designed by Swiss architect Max Dudler and won numerous architectural awards.
via flickr / yushimoto_02 [christian]
University of Innsbruck Library, Austria
The University of Innsbruck contains over 3.5 million books.
via flickr / uniinnsbruck
Sorbonne Library, Paris
The library at the Sorbonne was established in 1289; it survived the French Revolution by distributing its 25,000 volume collection among smaller libraries and was later re-built.
via flickr / abac077
University of Salamanca Library, Spain
Built in the 16th century, the library at the University of Salamanca contains manuscripts almost 1000 years old.
via flickr / Lightarq
Andrew Dickson White Library, Cornell University, New York
Named after Cornell’s co-founder and first president, the A.D. White Library evokes another time; students at Cornell often refer to it as “Harry Potter” library.
via flickr / Locus_Iste
Wren Library, Cambridge University, England
Sir Christopher Wren designed this library, completed in 1695. It houses books from Sir Isaac Newton’s own library and A.A. Milne’s manuscripts of Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.
via flickr / Jeheme
Copenhagen University Library, Denmark
Complete in 1861, architect Johan Daniel Herholdt took inspiration from the cathedrals of northern Italy. The central hall was painted by Georg Hilker, one of the more prolific decorative painters in Denmark at the time.
via flickr / Bo Madsen