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12 of the world’s most beautiful libraries

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How cool can libraries be in an era of iPads and Kindles?
More than you think, if you know where to go.

12. Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland


The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is the oldest library in Switzerland and holds about 160,000 volumes. The library was founded by Saint Othmar, who founded the Abbey of St. Gall in 719. This is one of the oldest monastery libraries in the world, and holds manuscripts from as far back as the 8th century. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the library a World Heritage site in 1983, calling it a “a perfect example of a great Carolingian monastery”. Many of the rare manuscripts that the library holds can be accessed through this website, and the public is welcome to use the library, although pre-1900 books must be read on site.

11. Seattle Central Library, Seattle, WA

The Seattle Central Library opened in 2004 and features a beautiful glass and steel modern design created by architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA/LMN. The goal of the design was to make an inviting open and airy space, avoiding the popular perception of libraries as dark and stuffy. The library can hold up to 1.45 million books and materials, and serves over 2 million patrons a year.

10. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto, Canada

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book library is the largest rare book collection in Canada. The library is affiliated with the University of Toronto. The collection includes numerous notable works, including Newton’s Principia (1687), Shakespeare’s First Folio, the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), and a Babylonian cueniform tablet that dates to 1789 BC. The library also contains a large and notable collection donated by a man named Robert S. Kenny, who was a Communist Party of Canada member. The collection is made up of over 25,000 items dealing with labor movements worldwide, with a particular emphasis on Canada.

9. New York Public Library, New York, New York

The New York Public Library is awe inspiring in its scope and breadth. It is the the third largest library in North America, has over 50 million items in its collection, and consists of 87 libraries serving 3.5 million people. The Rose Main Reading Room features grand windows and chandaliers, as well as a beautiful gilded and painted ceiling. The Library special collections include the first Gutenberg Bible to come to America, and a special emphasis on Americana. The Library is one of the most recognizable on our list, with multiple appearances in feature films, with its inclusion as a key setting in the film “The Day After Tomorrow” and as the setting of a significant portion of the movie “Ghostbusters”.

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