Whether enshrining ancient masterpieces or offering digital access in our computerised world, libraries are cultural meeting places that are open to all. These 11 libraries are both informative and stunning to look at.
1. New York Public Library, New York, USA
Carrere and Hastings
Read between the lions
Two huge marble lions, known as Patience and Fortitude, stand guard outside the library, which has more than 50 million books and serves 18 million patrons a year.
The imposing marble edifice is a city landmark. The building’s cornerstone, which weighs a hefty 7.5 tonnes, contains a relic box with newspapers, photos, official letters and other ephemera related to the library’s creation.
Embracing the digital age big time, the library is a living database with new items – prints, maps, photos and videos – added every day. Around 700,000 at the last count.
2. Taipei Public Library, Beitou, Taipei, Taiwan
Down to earth
Taiwan’s first green library, and easily one of the top eco-friendly buildings in East Asia, this branch of the Taipei Public Library is tucked into Beitou Park’s lush environment. The magnificent structure has quickly become a tourist attraction.
Enjoy the many al fresco reading areas. The wooded walkways have benches, as well as chairs and tables, with a stream and twittering birds for company.
Elements of the design recycle rainwater and use cross ventilation and solar panels. A section of the roof is covered by 20cm of soil to provide thermal insulation.
3. The Black Diamond, Copenhagen, Denmark
Schmidt Hammer Lassen
The Black Diamond, a waterfront extension of Denmark’s 1906 Royal Library building, is clad in polished granite that reflects the sea and sky.
The interior is as impressive as the exterior, with a huge 200sq m ceiling fresco by one of Denmark’s most famous painters, Per Kirkeby.
Borrowing a book isn’t the only reason to visit The Black Diamond. Among its other amenities is a great waterside restaurant, Soren K, named after one of the country’s most famous philosophers, Kierkegaard.
4. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, England
Named for its Elizabethan benefactor and Oxford old boy, Sir Thomas Bodley, this 400-year-old library, which boasts 12 million items including a Shakespeare First Folio, a copy of the Gutenberg Bible and a handwritten compendium of Jane Austen’s early writings, is simply ‘The Bod’ to many local scholars .
It’s famous for its reading rooms and Divinity School, the vaulted ceiling of which is a masterpiece of English Gothic craftsmanship.
If the interiors look familiar, thank the Harry Potter movies. The Hogwarts Restricted Section is actually the Arts End of the medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library, the oldest reading room at the Bodleian.