Many people, when asked about libraries, imagine old buildings with heavy bookshelves and dimmed light. It’s true, libraries bear our heritage and all the knowledge the human kind has acquired. They have to be like that.
But on the other side – and this post is about it – the libraries are shaping the way we learn things and enjoy books in the digital age. They offer access to books in every possible form and format. You can visit them in real, but you can also visit them via internet – not only by checking out their websites, but also by taking a virtual tour using Google Street View. By the way, I hope these most outstanding libraries that are listed below will offer virtual tours some time soon.
The purpose of this post is to encourage you to visit the library near you. You will probably not have a chance to go to Colombia to read for hours in Biblioteca España, but that library you are passing every day on your way to school or work, will also welcome you – with a magic of books and the charm of the librarian.
Some of the libraries on the list are obvious, like Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library or Yale University Beinecke Rare Book Library, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time to dig fantastic libraries in other countries than USA or Canada.
As you will see, libraries around the world are heading into the future, creating for their patrons a more dynamic, multi-level environment for learning and pleasure. I’m sure the library in your neighbourhood has also changed a lot since the last time you visited it.
20 modern libraries from around the world
1. Bishan Public Library, Singapore
The Bishan Public Library was opened in September 2006. Designed by LOOK Architects, it’s a metaphor of a tree house. Situated in Singapore, the library is serving the needs of nearby schools and inhabitants of the Bishan area.
The library offers over 250,000 titles spread over four floors and a basement. The windows that protrude out of the building are actually reading nooks for readers who want to read quietly or use their laptops there.
2. LiYuan Library, China
Built in 2011 in a small village of Huairou on the outskirts of Beijing, this beautiful nature-inspired library was designed by Li Xiaodong.
The 175-square-meter building’s interior is spatially diverse by using steps and small level changes to create distinct places. The wooden sticks temper the bright light and spread it evenly throughout the space to give a perfect reading ambience. The library has no electricity supply and closes at dusk.
3. Warsaw University Library, Poland
Designed by Marek Budzyński and Zbigniew Badowski, the library opened in December 1999. Guests and book-lovers have direct access to the main part of the library’s bounty, which can be reached through the sides of the building – meaning that students occupying the central areas are not disturbed by visitors.
The distinct element of the building is a botanical garden, located on the roof. With an area of one hectare, it’s one of the largest roof gardens in Europe.
4. Turku City Library, Finland
Turku City Library, located in the city centre of Turku, is a combination of the old main library building from 1903, and the new addition, designed by JKMM Architects, and finished in 2007.
The new Turku library is a centre for knowledge, experiences and learning. It’s a common living room for everybody. There are meeting rooms, reading seats and wireless internet all over the library.
5. University of Aberdeen New Library, Scotland
Designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, and opened for public in September 2012, the new library of the Aberdeen University houses more than 250,000 books and manuscripts.
This 15,500 square meter facility accommodates 14,000 students with 1,200 reading spaces, archives, historical collections and a room for rare books. It is designed to provide for students a 21st century learning and research experience.
6. Maranello Library, Italy
Designed by Milan-based architects Arata Isozaki and Andrea Maffei, the new library of the Maranello community is intended to provide its visitors an introspective experience and visual connection with nature.
7. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Canada
The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is a library in the University of Toronto, being the largest repository of rare books and manuscripts in Canada.
The building was opened in 1973. Since that time the library has grown to approximately 700,000 volumes and 3,000 linear metres of manuscript holdings. Among the collection’s items are the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623), Newton’s Principia (1687), and Darwin’s proof copy (with annotations) of On the Origin of Species (1859).
8. University Of Versailles Science Library, France
Designed by Badia Berger Architects for Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University, the library building opened for students in 2012. The architects focused primarily on energy management. The building is designed to provide maximum energy independence without neglecting the environmental impact of construction.
Having over 4,000 square meters, the library is a central place on the university campus.
9. Ballyroan Library, Ireland
Designed by Box Architecture, the new library in South Dublin opened in early 2013.
The new library offers extensive seating and a large study area with many public access computers, as well as printing and photocopying facilities.
Free internet is available throughout the building. Facilities include easy-to-use self-service units which should reduce queuing time.
10. Biblioteca José Vasconcelos, Mexico
Located in Mexico City, this stunning building is often called “megabiblioteca” (“megalibrary”). Spread across 38,000 square metres, it’s dedicated to José Vasconcelos, the former philosopher, presidential candidate and president of the National Library of Mexico.
Built for $98 million, the library opened in May 2006 and was claimed one of the most advanced constructions of the 21st century. The shelves are the most important part of design. They are contrasted by several modern sculptures, with a prominent whale skeleton, created by Gabriel Orozco.
11. Tama Art University Libraries, Japan
Consisting of two libraries, Hachioji and Kaminoge, the project is aimed to contribute to art education and research for students and faculty of privately held Tama Art University, one of the leading universities in Japan.
Both libraries, located in Tokyo, contain more than 17,000 Japanese and foreign-language books, as well as over 1,800 periodicals. A large collection of books covers art, design and architecture, ranging from reference books to specialized research materials.
Kaminoge Library also owns the collections of the late Shuzo Takiguchi (1903-1979) and the late Katsue Kitazono (1902-1978). They both are famous Japanese artists, poets and art critics.
12. Biblioteca España, Colombia
This ultra modern library is located in the northern part of Medellin, in Colombia. Three massive non symmetric geometric buildings house the community centre, auditorium, and the library. It is part of the government’s social master plan program to give equal economic and social opportunities to the population.
The 11,500 square foot project was completed in 2007, out of brick and stucco structures. For library’s architect, Giancarlo Mazzanti, the major premise was to design interiors that could “decontextualize the individual from the poverty that is experienced in the outside.”
13. Stuttgart City Library, Germany
Marvellously designed by a Korean architect Eun Young Yi, and built for over $100 million, Stadtbibliothek in Stuttgart officially started in October 2011.
The heart and core of the library follows the design of the ancient pantheon. The gallery hall is a five-story space, in a form of a square and surrounded by shelves of books.
Interesting thing is that the word “library” is displayed in four languages (German, English, Arabic, and Korean) on the outside walls.
14. Vennesla Library and Culture House, Norway
Vennesla Bibliotek og Kulturhus is a new a public library for inhabitants of Vennesla municipality. The building was designed by architects from Helen & Hard and officially started in late 2011.
Located in the city centre, with café, open meeting places, and a small scene, the building combines a library and house of culture.
15. Black Diamond Library, Denmark
Black Diamond is an extension to the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen. Its quasi-official nickname is a reference to its polished black granite cladding and irregular angles.
Designed by a Danish architect Schmidt Hammer Lassen, Black Diamond was opened in 1999. The facilities include a 600-seat auditorium, the Queen’s Hall, used for concerts, literary events, theatrical performances and conferences.
16. Utrecht University Library, The Netherlands
Opened in 2004, the library building is a new addition to Utrecht University campus.
Designers from Wiel Arets were putting a lot of attention to build a place where students and visitors could spend time in an open and interactive space while concentrating on the private reading.
17. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book Library, United States
The building was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, and is considered one of the world’s largest libraries devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts.
In total, the library presently holds 500,000 volumes and several million manuscripts. When visitors first enter the building they see a large glass tower that is the central core of the building. The mezzanine level allows for people to rotate around the glass tower which holds 180,000 volumes.
18. São Paulo Library, Brazil
Inaugurated in January 2010, the library, designed by Aflalo and Gasperini, has 4,257 square meters, ans stores more than 30,000 items. The new institution is the central hub of 961 libraries in São Paulo region.
The library is located on the site which was formerly taken by a prison. Now it’s a place of freedom to explore knowledge, ideas, and books.
19. Surry Hills Library and Community Centre, Australia
The existing Surry Hills Library opened in 2009. This flagship City of Sydney building spans 4 floors and, besides the library, it also houses a community centre and child care centre.
Surry Hills Library specialises in fashion and design titles, as well as having a significant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender collection.
20. Nam June Paik Library, Korea
Located on the first floor of Nam June Paik Art Center, this ultra-modern public library was designed by Nahyun Hwang and David Eugin Moon as a multi-functional spatial device, which redefines the relationship between library users and information.
In contrast to the conventional library, Nam June Paik Library aims to promote “non-linear and random access to information, and its production beyond the prescribed consumption.” Through spontaneous expression and juxtaposition of ideas, the consumer of information becomes the producer and the static contents of the library turns dynamic.
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