Top 20 Best Libraries in the World

At Best Value Schools, we are all about learning. And what better place to learn than in a library? The world is filled with incredible libraries from the Library of Congress to the Library of Alexandria, and we love them all. Because our love of libraries is so strong, we’ve spent a lot of time researching the best libraries in the world. We found a mix of private, public and university libraries that are absolutely worth writing about. These libraries are architecturally fascinating, and many of which have fascinating collections and books. We have some serious wanderlust for these libraries, and we hope you will too after looking at this list.

20. Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

SLC

By User: (WT-shared) PerryPlanet at wts wikivoyage – Own work, Public Domain, LinkL

Built in 2003, Utah’s Salt Lake City Public Library is a awe-inspiring building that can be seen from anywhere in the city. This library holds an impressive amount of literature, more than 500,000 books and a massive collection of magazines; and these number rise every year. Natural light is the main focus of the building, and as such it features a five story curved glass wall with a 20,000 sq ft skylight at the very top. The library’s rooftop is home to a living garden of flowers, trees and various other plants.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

19. Jay Walker’s Private Library, Connecticut

walker private libraryAlso known as “The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination,” the Jay Walker’s Private Library was developed by none other than Jay Walker. Walker is an American inventor and entrepreneur who used his wealth to create this incredible private library. The library is located in Walker’s own Connecticut home and it contains more than 50,000 books. Many of the items in his library are early works, and items you would find in a museum. The library is not open to the public, but anyone interested in the library can visit www.walkerdigital.com to see just how magnificent the library is. The library’s architecture is inspired by the works of M.C. Escher. Wired Magazine even called Walker’s library, “the most amazing library in the world.” Walker has even given a whole TED Talk about his library.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

18. Phillips Exeter Academy Library, Exeter, New Hampshire

philips exeter library

By Daderot – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7016342

Part of one of the most wealthy prep schools in the world, the Phillips Exeter Academy Library is the largest secondary school library in the world. Built by architect Louis Kahn, this library has won countless amounts of awards including the Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects. This library is so impressive that the United States Postal Service named it one of 12 masterworks of modern American architecture, and then they commemorated it on a postal stamp.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

17. Melk Monastery Library, Melk, Austria

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Built in 1089, this Abbey turned school, should be called the manuscript capitol of the world. In the 12th century, this library was built for the school and soon thousands of manuscripts were preserved and created. The vaulted ceilings adorned with frescos make this library memorable and extra special. Today the library is still known for its manuscript collection, which even includes musical manuscripts.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

16. Trinity College Library (“The Long Room”), Dublin, Ireland

trinity college library

By Sam – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22763299

Known as the “Library of Congress for Dublin,” this library actually consists of four different buildings. The Long Room located in the Old Trinity College library built in 1732 is our favorite, however. The Long Room contains the Book of Kells, a beautiful and intricate Gospel book written by Celtic monks in 800, making it a tourist attraction you can’t miss.
 
 
 

 
 

 
 

15. State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

state library in victoriaThe State Library of Victoria has one of the most breathtaking reading rooms in all of the libraries of the world. The reading room known as, LaTrobe Reading Room, is the centerpiece of the library and sports over 1 million books. The LaTrobe Reading Room was the largest dome in the world at the time of completion. Patrons can sit in more than 500 research and reading areas. The special collections department in this library contains original chess pieces, diaries from Melbourne’s and folios of Captain James Cook.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

14. Library of the Benedictine Monastery, Admont, Austria

library benedictine monastery in admont

© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Founded in 1074 by Archbishop Gebhard, this library is the largest monastery library in the world. The library contains original manuscripts from the Archbishop, 70,000 volumes, 1,400 manuscripts and 900 incunables. The interior decorating of this library is quite impressive as well; the ceilings are elaborately adorned with frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte. The decor is influenced by the progression of human knowledge and the Enlightenment. Science lovers should also know that this library is home to one of the longest-established science collections. If you want to see this library, be ready to climb some mountains because it is located on the border of Gesause National Park

 
 
 
 
 
 

13. National Library, Minsk, Belarus

national library of BelarusYou might be wondering, what in the world do you call the shape of this library? Well, don’t worry, we’ll tell you. The National Library of Belarus is a rhombicuboctahedron. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a figure with 8 triangular faces and 18 square faces. So, it’s a pretty impressive building. This library is massive too; standing at 22 stories tall and consisting of 8 million items, as well as having one of the largest collections of Russian history and work. It is no wonder this library is an attraction to citizens of Belarus and tourists alike. To top it all off, the Library is surrounded by a beautiful park and garden area that features an observation deck and public concerts during the warmer months.
 
 

12. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, New York

Morgan Library & MuseumThe Morgan Library and Museum is a humanities lover’s dream come true. This library and museum is full of some of the best works; Sir Walter Scott’s original manuscripts, drawings from Leonardo, Raphael, Picasso, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt, a manuscript of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and also Bob Dylan’s scraps of what used to be his original writing of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” These works are only a few of the masterpieces that can be seen at this library and museum; patrons can walk through and observe hundreds of illuminated manuscripts and delicate incunabula. To top it all off, this place was originally built in 1906 in order to hold the private collection of J.P. Morgan, the J.P. Morgan, there is no doubt this library is amazing.

 
 

 

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

abbey library in saint gall

“BibliothekSG” by Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Back in the 700’s and 800’s if there was a monastery, there was typically a library built shortly after. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is the oldest library in Switzerland and one of the oldest monastery libraries in the world; it was founded in 719 by Saint Othmar. Where else could you find a manuscript that dates back to the 8th century? The public can access the library daily, and can even read books that date back to the pre-1900’s, if they are willing to be closely monitored. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization named the library a World Heritage site for it’s preservation of records for the monastery.
 
 
 
 
 
 

10. Seattle Central Library, Seattle, Washington

Seattle Central LibraryThe Seattle Central Library is definitely a newer library, you can tell by the modern 11-story glass and steel structure. Patrons love this library for the amount of natural light and open air it provides. It defeats the stereotypes of ancient, dusty libraries.The building has the potential to hold 1.45 million books and other works, and was voted #108 on the American Institute of Architects’ list of Americans’ 150 favorite structures in the United States.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

New York Public Library Research Room

“NYC Public Library Research Room Jan 2006” by Diliff – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

The New York public library is one of the most famous libraries. You’ve probably seen it on The Day After Tomorrow, Ghostbusters, Seinfeld, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Sex and the City. Other than being ultra-famous, this library is ultra big! The New York Public Library is the third largest library in North America and holds more than 50 million items in its collection. The library has 87 sub-libraries and can service over 3.5 million people. The architecture features massive chandeliers, gilded ceilings, and fresco-style paintings. For the christianity buffs out there, you can see the first Gutenberg Bible at the New York City library too!
 
 
 
 
 

8. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto, Canada

thomas fisher rare book libraryThis library is home to the largest rare book collection in North America. Here you can find Shakespeare’s First Folio, a Babylonian cuneiform tablet from 1789 BC. The lighting in this library is very dim and many of the shelves are covered in glass to protect the rare and delicate books.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7. Library of Parliament, Ottawa, Canada

The Library of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada

“The Library of Parliament Ottawa Canada 6D2B5588” by Tony Webster – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This Canadian landmark is exactly what you see on the Canadian ten dollar bill. This library is modeled after the British Museum Reading Room. The architecture of the building is one of the most impressive on our list. The library is supported by 16 flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings with white pine paneling, and detailed carpentry. There are carvings of flowers, mythical creatures, and intricate masks. You can tour the library, but don’t expect frequent visits, because access is restricted to Canadian parliamentary business.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6. Reading Room at the British Museum, London, England

reading room in the british museum in London

attribution: ceridwen

This library was the model of the Library of Parliament mentioned above. The library is the very center of the Great Court of the British Museum. Researchers are the only ones allowed in, and even then they have to go through an intensive registration process. A vast amount of notable figures have studied at this particular library including: Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Mahatma Ghandi, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Lenin, and H.G. Wells.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

5. Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston public library reading room

“Boston Public Library Reading Room (17490958561)” by Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon – Boston Public Library Reading Room. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Public Library was the first publicly supported library in the United States. Established in 1848, this library was built to hold 22 million items., and is the second largest library in the United States. The library consists of two buildings, but the McKim building is the more memorable of the two; it is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the United States. It was built in 1895 and contains many beautiful morals, including Edward Abbey’s most famous mural of the legend of the Holy Grail, and the libraries of John Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, and Nathaniel Bowditch.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

4. Vatican Library, Vatican City, Rome

Vatican Library in Rome

“The Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library (2994335291)” by Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium – The Sistine Hall of the Vatican LibraryUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

The Vatican Library is one of the oldest in the world. This library is strictly reserved for history, law, philosophy, science and theology research. It wasn’t established until 1475, but it has been around since the beginning of the Catholic church. The library has added to its collection over time via gifts and endowments. Naturally, this library owns the oldest complete manuscript of the Bible.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut

Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This library is the largest building in the world built for the purpose of preserving rare books and manuscripts. The center of the building is an incredible shelving area, the structure is made with glass walls and soft lighting to protect the works from direct light and deterioration. The library is open to the public, and visitors can see exhibition hall displays of rare books, an original Gutenberg bible, and works from notable writers like Rudyard Kipling, Sinclair Lewis, and Joseph Conrad.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2. Bodleian Library, Oxford, United Kingdom

bodleian library in oxford

“Radcliffe Camera, Oxford – Oct 2006” by Diliff – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

The students at the University of Oxford get to enjoy this magnificent library. Established in 1602, the Bodleian Library is one of Europe’s oldest. The library is filled with important and valuable historical documents, including four copies of the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, and Shakespeare’s First Folio from 1623. The circular structure is one of the most memorable libraries in the world.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

1. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

main reading room in the library of congressThe Library of Congress is the national library of the United States and is the oldest federal institution in the U.S. The amount of shelf space and volumes in this library make it the largest library in the world. The library is open to the public, but since it is mainly a research library, only members of Congress may check out books. This library can enable the function called, “the library of last resort,” which makes certain items available to other libraries in the U.S. if specific items or works are not available in any other way. The library holds more than 32 million books, 60 million manuscripts, a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a perfect copy of the Gutenberg Bible, millions of newspapers, maps, sheet music, photos and prints.