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11 Most Amazing College Libraries in the World


Heading to the library to study or schlep through the stacks for a long-unused book isn't always the most fun part of getting your college degree, but it can be considerably more interesting and aesthetically pleasing if you go to a school with a beautiful library. These eleven colleges have libraries that please the eye and house some amazing collections that just might make students excited to go.

  1. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland. This university library is the largest library in Ireland, comprising of several different buildings that are home nearly 5 million volumes. The oldest (constructed in 1592) and most beautiful of the library buildings houses the Early Printed Books Reading Room and the Manuscripts Reading Room. The main area of this Old Library is the Long Room, running nearly 215 feet and containing multiple levels of dark wood shelves lined with busts of great philosophers and writers. The library's most famous holding is a copy of The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript dating from the 6th century. Students at this school will be browsing the same tomes as illustrious names like Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett.
  2. Biblioteca Geral, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal. This large library, originally founded in 1537 with the establishment of the University of Coimbra, was reconstructed and relocated in 1725. The smaller part of the library, the Biblioteca Joanina is it's most distinctive, and arguably most beautiful, architectural feature. It is lavishly decorated in the Baroque style that was popular during the reign of King Joao V, after whom the library is named. About 250 thousand volumes grace the shelves, constructed of exotic and sometimes gilded woods, home, covering topics from medicine to philosophy. The building was entirely constructed and decorated by Portuguese artists, making it one of the country's valued National Monuments as well as a place for students to study.
  3. George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. Located on the Peabody Campus of Johns Hopkins University, this library serves students studying at the Conservatory of Music, the Preparatory Division and other smaller parts of the university. The library was founded in 1852 through a large donation from investment banker George Peabody. Today, it houses over 300,000 volumes that are part of the Special Collections department. The books date back to the 19th century and cover topics like religion, British art, architecture, history, literature, romance languages and travel, reflecting the academic interests of the period. The building itself has been heralded for the beauty of its design, created by Baltimore architect Edward G. Lind in a Neoclassical style. It has been described by some as a "cathedral of books," no doubt making it a welcome retreat for students doing historical research amid its collections.
  4. Harvard Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard Library isn't necessarily the most beautiful library in the world, though it does provide cozy and a predictably academic setting for students, but it certainly has a place in a list of the most amazing university libraries in the world for a number of reasons. First, it is the oldest library system in the United States, seeing its start in 1638, before it was even a nation in its own right. Secondly, it contains the largest privately held collection of books anywhere in the world, and the fourth largest collection of books overall, with 15.8 million works and counting. The largest and best known building in the Harvard library system is the Widener Library, the central library for the college. It houses over 3 million volumes, including copies of the first printed book– the Gutenberg Bible. Because of its vast size, this amazing college library won't have students looking elsewhere for research material or a great, impressive place to study.
  5. Riggs Library, Georgetown University, Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Students at Georgetown University can do their studying in this impressive 19th century library. While it was once the school's main library, today the building primarily houses the school's collection of archival historical materials. It was built in 1889 to honor the father or E. Francis Riggs and was designed to hold over 105,000 books– much more than the university had in its collections at the time. Today it stands as one of the few cast iron libraries in the nation and one of even fewer that are still used to house books. Students may not have a need to use the materials found in this library during the course of their education, but they may venture there for other reason. The library, because of its beauty and historical significance to the university, is often used for school events and functions.
  6. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Gifted to the school in 1963 by the Beinecke family, this library is the largest rare books and manuscripts center in the world. From the outside, the building looks much different from many others on campus, bearing a strong modern design with clean lines and a highly functional appearance. Designed by renowned firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the building is highly functional, but also quite striking as well once you enter the front doors. The library is lit from light from outside through windows made of translucent marble, providing protection from the damaging rays of the sun without rendering the space too enclosed. Students can marvel at the library's numerous open shelves of ancient books or take a gander at some of its most prestigious holdings on display in the Exhibition Hall. Because of the dim lighting the library requires it may not be ideal for everyday reading, but is a heaven for students researching ancient texts.
  7. Radcliffe Reading Rooms, University of Oxford, Oxford, England. Part of the university's renowned Bodleian Library, the second largest library in Britain, this grand building was originally constructed to house The Radcliffe Science Library. The Palladian style structure was completed in 1749 and was named after John Radcliffe, the personal physician to William III and Mary II somewhat ironic since as he was a man who scorned book learning. From 1749 until 1927, the building housed Oxford's scientific tomes as well as a host of other odds and ends like plaster casts, coins, busts and statues. When the collection grew too large, it was moved and the space became a massive and very impressive reading room for volumes in English, history and theology. Unlike many other university libraries, students cannot check out the books and must use them on-site. Today, students can use the large, round space to study, read and soak in the academic atmosphere that surrounds them at the school.
  8. Bapst Library, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.Fans of Gothic architecture will love this art library located centrally on Boston College's campus. Originally part of a larger plan for an epic Gothic campus which never saw completion, Bapst Library is one of the buildings at the center of campus that actually was built to the original specifications laid out by architect Charles Donagh Maginnis in 1908. It has since been called "finest example of Collegiate Gothic architecture in America" and won an award for the "most beautiful building in Boston." While the library originally housed the school's main collection, today it is used as an art, architecture, photography and museum studies library, containing over 51,000 volumes dedicated to these subjects. The main hall of the library is filled with beautiful stained glass windows that can provide a little visual interest when students need a break from reading.
  9. Powell Library, UCLA, Los Angeles, California. Powell Library serves as the main undergraduate library for students at UCLA. Built in a Romanesque Revival style, the building resembles an ancient Roman basilica, specifically Milan's Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, with a few modern accoutrements. Construction on the building was finished in 1929 and it is one of the oldest buildings on UCLA's campus. The entryways to the building, as well as a wide range of other surfaces, are adorned with intricate mosaics, one proclaiming "studying in youth sustains delight into old age," a motto particularly apt for young college students.
  10. Pontifical Lateran University Library, Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, Italy. Pontifical Lateran University is known at "The Pope's University" as it is run by direct authority of the Pope himself. Called the Biblioteca Pia, after Pope Pius IX, the main library of this university was founded in 1854 bringing together several smaller libraries from around the city to form one larger, more comprehensive collection. The collection was moved into the modern, impressive building that houses it today in 2007, a space with clean lines and open space that highlights the books themselves, including numerous private Papal and monastic collections as well as over 400,000 rare and antique volumes. Students can feel in good company while they browse the books the library holds, as the same volumes may have been perused by no less than four saints who are among the school's alumni.
  11. Philological Library, Free University, Berlin, Germany. Philology is the study of language in written historical sources, combining elements of literary studies, history and linguistics. This library, located at the Free University in Berlin, offers students one of the best chances to to study this in Europe as well as an impressive space to do it within. The building is the newest part of the school's campus and was designed by architect Norman Foster of Foster and Associates. It was designed to look like a human brain, and boasts beautiful glass panes on nearly every surface of its exterior. Since it was opened in 2005 it has become a campus center for gathering, study and research, no doubt because of the aesthetic experience the building offers.

November 7th, 2010 written by Site Administrator

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