15 Beautiful Libraries in the U.S.

What could be more appealing to a book lover than a place full of books? Libraries give readers the ability to get lost in a book for hours on end. What’s even more wonderful about libraries is that many of them are in beautiful buildings. Check out our list of beautiful libraries we’re sure you’ll want to visit. Have a favorite not listed? Let us know in the comments! 

Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, CA

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Berkeley is a “bookish” little city, so it makes perfect sense that they have such a great library. The central library building opened in 1934 and was renovated in 2002. Berkeley beat out San Francisco for a spot on our list. How about that for bragging rights?


Boston Athenæum, Boston, MA

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The Athenæum is a private library, not part of Boston’s public library system. It opened in 1807 and now houses an art gallery as well as a book collection. To check books out of this library, you’ll have to sign up for a membership plan.


Boston Public Library, Boston, MA

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Boston’s more accessible library system is just as impressive as the Athenæum. The Boston Public Library was the first municipal library in the entire United States when it opened in 1848, but the beautiful central building on Copley Square didn’t come along until 1895.


Brooklyn Central Library, Brooklyn, NY

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When Brooklyn and Queens became a part of New York City in 1898, they already had their own library systems. Both boroughs decided to keep them, so the Brooklyn and Queens libraries are run separately from the New York Public Library system that covers the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The stunning central library of the Brooklyn system faces Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park.


Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

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Philadelphia’s massive central library building sits on Logan Square in Center City. Even the city’s decision to put a highway underpass right in front of it couldn’t ruin the beauty of this building. The main building opened in 1927.


George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

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The Peabody Library was built in the mid-1800s and opened as a part of the Peabody Institute. It’s since changed hands twice, first joining Baltimore’s public library system and then becoming a part of Johns Hopkins University. Its collections are still open the public.


Harold Washington Library, Chicago, IL

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Chicago’s library is a postmodern masterpiece. The building was completed in 1991, making it one of the newer libraries on our list. It’s full of fascinating features, including year-round gardens in a penthouse space on the top floor.


Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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No library in the world has more shelf space or more books than this one. The Library of Congress is technically privately owned by congress itself, so you can’t come here to get a library card. This beautiful building was completed in 1897.


Los Angeles Central Library, Los Angeles, CA

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Los Angeles’ picturesque library perfectly suits the city’s style. The central building was complete in 1926 and sits in downtown LA. Its interior is decorated with stunning murals.


Morgan Library, New York, NY

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The Morgan Library was founded by J.P. Morgan as a private library. It was made public in Morgan’s will, and now acts as a museum and research center. You can visit it on Madison Avenue and 37th Street.


New York Public Library, New York, NY

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New Yorkers think they have the best of everything, and they might be right about their library. The New York Public Library’s main building opened in 1911. You can’t borrow books from this library, so you’ll have to do that at one of the NYPL’s more than 80 branches in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx – including one right across the street from the main branch.


Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, UT

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The Salt Lake City Public Library is a modern architectural marvel. It opened in 1964 and is the main branch of a system that circulates more than 3 million volumes a year – not bad for a city of just over 180,000 people. It sits on Washington Square in downtown Salt Lake City.


Seattle Central Library, Seattle, WA

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Beautiful libraries don’t have to be done up in neoclassical styles. Take the Seattle Central Library, which features modern geometric angles. This stunning building opened in 2004.


Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

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Completed in 1905, the Thompson Building is the main library for Vassar College. Vassar’s library might be the most beautiful college library in the United States. The building was modernized in the 1960s but has retained its original beauty.


Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA

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This gorgeous library was completed in 1926 and has served as the main library at the University of Washington ever since. It houses about 1.6 million volumes. Several additions have been put on the original structure, most recently in 1990.