George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University — Baltimore, America.
Opened in 1878, the library collection contains over 300,000 volumes largely from the 18th and 19th centuries. Transferred between various institutions, the library is now with Johns Hopkins University. The most well-known room is the Peabody Stack Room, which contains five floors overlooking the ground, decorated by ornamental cast-iron balconies. The skylight is 61 feet from the floor.
Another view of the George Peabody library.
Philological Library at the Free University — Berlin, Germany
Commissioned in 1997 and completed in 2005, the Philological Library brought together 10 previously separate humanities and philosophical volumes. It contains over 700,000 volumes and has space for 650 readers.
Another photo of the interior of the Philological Library
It is part of the largest university in Berlin, the Free University, and has four floors which link six of the university’s courtyards. Soon after its completion the distinctive style and shape of the building earned it the nickname, ‘the Berlin brain.’
Library at Pontifical Lateran University — Rome, Italy
Started in 2004 and completed in 2006, the library works against the assumption of traditional classicist architecture associated with Rome. The library functions almost on interlocking layers, as gentle ramps act as links from one floor to the next – and as the bookshelves. The central – fire proof – tower houses 70,000 volumes and rare manuscripts. The library is part of the Pontifical Lateran University, an institution that boasts four saints among its alumni and is known as ‘The Pope’s University’.
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at University of Toronto — Toronto, Canada
Opened in 1973 and named after the Yorkshire merchant Thomas Fisher (whose grandsons donated to the university) the library is the largest repository of books and manuscripts in Canada. It has expanded over the years to include over 700,000 books – and 3,000 linear metres of manuscript holdings.
Flickr (Thomas Fisher Library)
Joe & Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago — Chicago, America
Donated to the university by two former students, Joe and Rika Mansueto, the state of the art library has the capacity to house up to 3.5 million volumes – all underground. The library’s temperature is carefully monitored, ensuring students learning under the huge glass dome can work in peace.
An interior shot of the Joe & Rika Mansueto library. Students request a book at the main desk, which is then extracted from the vaults below. The entire process takes minutes.
Central Library at National Autonomous University of Mexico — Mexico City, Mexico
The library opened in 1956, and the building is one of a number which make the university’s campus a designated World Heritage site. The fantastic murals on the outside were painted by Jua O’Gorman, a Mexcian painter and architect. The library houses around 400,000 books.
Flickr (maximiliano monterrubio)
Library at Pompeu Fabra University — Barcelona, Spain
The building that houses Pompeu Fabra’s library has been through many incarnations. Built as a water tower, it was later used as a fire station, metal institution, and parking garage. It’s connected to other university buildings through tunnels – first used by soldiers. An atmospheric building with an interesting past, its 500,000 volumes are now used by students, in 1,400 possible study desks.
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Another interior shot of the Pompeu Fabra university library
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University — New Haven, America
Everything about this building has been specially designed to preserve its contents. The walls themselves are made from incredibly thin marble, which allows light to shine through, but will not damage the books. The centre glass box is sealed and can be filled with fire-supressing gas should there be an alarm. It opened in 1963, and is one of the largest libraries in the world dedicated to preserving rare books and manuscripts.
Flickr (Lauren Manning)
Trinity College Library at University of Dublin — Dublin, Ireland
The library dates back from the University’s creation in 1592, and is the largest university in Ireland. The main chamber of the library, the Long room, was built in the 18th century – but by the 19th the collection had already expanded so much the shelves were full. University planners simply took the roof off the building and added another floor.
Flickr (Brett Jordan)
As the largest library in Ireland it presently contains around five million volumes.
Flickr (Please stay behind the green ropes)
General Library at University of Coimbra — Coimbra, Portugal
In 1537 the University of Coimbra was officially established, however, prior to that the General Library already existed and was being used. The most famous part of the building was constructed early in the 18th century, and houses around 200,000 books.
Another interior shot of the interior of the General Library
Tama Art University Library – Tokyo, Japan
This library is attached to a highly specialised art university on the outskirts of Tokyo, completed in 2007. Although its collection of volumes is small by other university standards (only around 140,000), because it’s an art school many of the volumes are of fragile or unusual materials or dimensions, requiring specialised storage.
Flickr (Marco Capitanio)
The Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego - America
Only in California. This spaceship-like construction arrived in 1970, and has dominated the area with its ‘brutalistic’ design ever since. There’s apparently no third floor, the lift simply going from 1-2 and then 4-8, giving rise to various urban legends, including poor design facilitating one floor purely of reinforced concrete.
Flickr (dogs on wheels)
Brotherton Library, Leeds - UK
Constructed between 1930 and 1936, the imposing façade of the library dominates the local area. Part of Leeds library collection, the building houses some of the 2.5 million volumes owned by the university.
Leeds University, Brotherton Library
Another shot of the interior of the Brotherton Library
Amusingly, the interior dome was modelled on the British Museum, but not to be outdone by the original, the architects increased the size of the dome, ensuring theirs was the larger.
Leeds University, Brotherton Library
Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University - America
Another entry for Yale, this library is the largest on campus. Opened in 1930, the architect of Sterling Library intended the building to be a cathedral of learning, probably over-succeeding in his brief. In overblown Gothic style, it has more than 3,000 decorated windows, seven stories of reading rooms and offices, and 15 floors of book stacks. The office reception desk was modelled upon an altar.
An interior shot of Stirling Memorial library. The Stirling Memorial is the largest of Yale's libraries, collectively they hold over four million volumes.
Michael Marsland (Yale photographer)
Duke Humfrey’s Library in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford – Oxford
First opened to scholars in 1602, the library has greatly expanded since that date, with an estimated 1.1 million books housed in its various libraries. One of these is Duke Humfrey’s, which is the oldest – although only three of the originally placed books remain. The rest were destroyed during the Reformation.
Another interior shot of Duke Humfrey's Library
Latterly, the library’s fame is assured thanks to it featuring in the Harry Potter films.
Library of the faculty of law, University of Zurich - Switzerland
Although a small library – housing around 150,000 volumes – it deserves inclusion. Not only because it is an example of beautiful design, but because it was built to cleverly sit inside the original university building, perfectly utilising the limited available space.
Wren Library, Trinity College, University of Cambridge - England
Designed by Christopher Wren, and completed in 1695, the library is credited with being the first to have large windows to aid readers. It contains 25,000 books and manuscripts dating back to the 11th century. Many notable alumni have also donated copies of their work, including Milton, Wittgenstein, and the manuscripts of A.A. Milne’s Winne the Pooh.
Widener Library, Harvard - Cambridge, America
This gigantic library commemorates Harry Elkins Widener, who died in the Titanic crash. Opened in 1915, it is the centre piece of the Harvard library system which has 15.6 million books. The building itself is 320,000 square feet, housing 57 miles of bookshelves and three million books alone. There are various campus urban legends attached to the donation (which was made by Widener’s mother) allegedly all Harvard students had to pass a swimming test before they could graduate – a condition of Mrs Widener on her donation.
Flickr (California Cthulhu (Will Hart))
An image of Widener library shortly after it first opened in 1915.
Boston Public Library
Library at Delft University of Technology — Delft, Netherlands
This amazing construction was built in 1997, although the roof was renovated in 2009. Students are able to walk all over the top of the building, which slopes gently upwards. Underneath, huge glass panels form a wall of light, carefully constructed to allow a constant air flow – keeping the building at a perfect temperature.
The exterior of Delft library. As you can see the grass slopes upwards, forming the roof of the building. The area is open to students and the numerous tourists who come to see the innovative design.
Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen - UK
Opened only last year, by the Queen no less, the Duncan Rice library was designed by a Danish firm - and the outside is supposed to represent ice and sunlight. Inside, the majority of the university's books are stored over seven floors with 1,200 study spaces.