In the days leading up to those first few magic moments of life as college freshman, I spent hours contemplating life on the quad, comparing class schedules and course offerings, and nervously pawing through my closet in the hope of finding something I might actually feel comfortable wearing on the first day of school. At times, the excitement was palpable — I could almost feel the grass beneath my feet as I lounged on the quad, trading witticisms with my scholarly peers... and then the fear would set in. In my darker moments (usually with the lights out in bed before drifting off to sleep), I began to picture an alternate universe, a world in which I would never find fabulous friends or challenging courses. In those moments of pure panic, I turned to the one place I was sure to find solace: the library.
The library is a haven of comfort and inspiration, a quiet sanctuary within which anything is possible and dreams do come true. Of course, not all libraries are created equal. Wherever you're attending this fall semester, you're sure to find the perfect corner of the stacks to curl up in when life just isn't going your way. But for a few lucky students, the university library will defy all expectations.
Go on, revel in the sheer magic of these 15 truly exceptional university libraries.
Harper Memorial Library at The University of Chicago
The Harper Memorial Library at The University of Chicago seems to belong more to the wizarding world of Harry Potter than to the venerated institution of higher learning housed in America's second city. While a wand and a password aren't required to enter this Chicago institution, the experience of studying in the Harper Memorial stacks should be nothing short of magical.
Djanogly Learning Resource Centre at The University of Nottingham
I've always felt that if you couldn't live close to a local library, settling on the waterfront would be the next best thing; of course, if you're a student at The University of Nottingham, you can have your cake and eat it too. With a sensational reflecting pool surrounding the library itself, setting off for a mid-afternoon study session feels almost like casting off for adventure on the high seas.
Pilkington Library at Loughborough University
If the zombie apocalypse were immanent and I could choose where to ride out the oncoming horde of undead masses, I would have to pick the Pilkington Library at Loughborough University. With a unique modern design strangely reminiscent of a mid-20th century bunker, this particular college library practically screams sanctuary.
Sterling Library at Yale University
I've often felt that a library is akin to a house of worship, and at Yale University that theory has been put to the test with the Sterling Library — an architectural marvel that makes studying feel more like worship than work.
Stauffer Library at Queen's University
Steampunks and LARPERS, the library of your dreams awaits in the great white northern oasis of Kingston, Ontario. Built on a scale that dwarfs the local surroundings with a facade resembling Capital City architecture from The Hunger Games, the Stuaffer Library at Queen's University is truly a sight to behold.
Suzzallo Library at The University of Washington
If Wes Anderson were to set one of his films within the hallowed halls of a university library, I firmly believe the Suzzallo Library at The University of Washington would be his first choice. Grand without being gaudy, whimsical and yet austere, this extraordinary palace of learning leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.
Sofia University Library
Vaguely reminiscent of the oval office, the Sofia University Library is a place of awe-inspiring solemnity and profound beauty. Despite the thrilling presence of stacks in plain sight, it somehow seems that within the arcing walls of this venerable institution it would be practically impossible not to get work done.
Library and Learning Centre at The University of Economics Vienna
Zaha Hadid's extraordinary architectural vision in combination with the passion and skill of a dedicated team of visionaries have brought to life a futuristic marvel of a library on the campus of The University of Economics in Vienna. If this is what books of the future have to look forward to, I'd say that the future is looking very bright indeed.
Widener Library at Harvard University
Complete with gilded chandeliers and renaissance paintings, the Widener Library at Harvard University harkens back to a time when scholarship was practically a holy endeavor. Somehow, despite the passage of time, it still seems that even the lowliest of book reports would take on new significance in this sacred space.
Geisel Library at The University of California San Diego
Leave it to the Californians to craft a library that feels as though it's set to launch at any moment. Drenched in light and elevated, a trip to the Geisel Library might just be the closest any of us will come to studying in space.
Humboldt University Library
After a thorough and prolonged renovation, the Humboldt University Library in Berlin, Germany has emerged as a rare gem of library that blends history and modernity with ease and grace.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University
With an architectural presence strangely reminiscent of Superman's Fortress of Solitude, somehow it's hard to imagine the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the Yale University campus. Of course, if you're going to seek out literary treasures, why not travel to a secret lair?
Koerner Library at The University of British Columbia
Designed to look like an open book upon approach, the Koerner Library on the University of British Columbia campus is a glittering steel and cement ode to the surroundings. From virtually anywhere inside this palatial library, the epic mountain landscape is on full display. You'll be hard pressed to keep your head in a book with such astonishing vistas at every turn, but in the visual rewards are more than worth a few moments of distraction.
Philological Library at Freie University
Housed in a giant bubble at the center of the Freie University campus in Berlin, Germany, studying at the Philological library feels strangely akin to reading at the base of a hot air balloon. Awash in muted light dispersed by the cloth canopy and surrounded by row upon row of books, the ultimate effect is serenity in its purest form.
The Butler Library at Columbia University
Classic, no-nonsense, and stylish as all giddy-up, The Butler Library at Columbia University is New York at its finest. Like the little black dress or the martini, this library is quite simply a classic.
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