Anyone who loves books will be able to confirm that
libraries are the happiest places on Earth. I mean, it's a whole building full of books that you can read for free — what could be better than that? It's always good to support your local library, so if you haven't already, I definitely advise you to get a library card right now — but if you fancy a road trip, why not go visit the best library in your whole state? (Of course, for some lucky people, one of these will be your local library. Oh, if only...)
These 50 libraries are some of the biggest, the prettiest, and the most unusual across the country. Some of them are old and bursting with history; some of them are fresh and modern, with unique architecture that wouldn't look out of place in one of the futuristic sci-fi books they contain. As well as being packed to the brim with books, many of these libraries often host events from book clubs to author readings to career development evenings — so if you get your timings right, your visit could be extra special. But no matter when you go, you'll notice something magical in the air from the moment you step through the door: the smell of old books, the silence of people engrossed in a story, and the fact that each and every one of these libraries is run by enthusiastic book-lovers passionate about
making books more accessible to more people. So go and take a look!
Ben May Library, Alabama
The Ben May Public Library was built in 1928, and designed by the architect George B. Rogers, who's also responsible for some of the state's grandest buildings. During the Great Depression, the library only stayed open thanks to the efforts of its first librarian, Emma Harris — who had to bring in her own supplies of coal and oil to heat the building.
Homer Public Library, Alaska
This light-filled, gorgeous glass library was named one of the best libraries in the U.S. in the 2016 Library Journal. Its design is uber-modern, and uses all local materials.
The Desert Foothills Library, Arizona
The Desert Foothills Library in Arizona is set in such a jaw-droppingly stunning location that it's
almost too hard to concentrate on the books... But once you get involved in the wealth of activities taking place at the library, from book swaps to yoga, you'll soon realize it's even better inside the library than out.
Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library and Learning Center, Arkansas
The visually stunning Hillary Rodham Clinton Library was created specifically for the children of the community in Little Rock, Arkansas. It provides a literal bridge between the neighborhoods divided by Interstate 40, and is filled with multiple learning areas for children, a performance space, greenhouse, and vegetable garden.
Hearst Castle Gothic Study, California
Stepping into this spectacular library is like stepping back in time — and in
such a good way. Whether you're reading, studying, or trying to write your masterpiece — when you're sitting in the Hearst Castle Gothic Study, anything feels possible.
Boulder Public Library, Colorado
Donations from the community help fund the incredible Boulder Public Library, which hosts children's events and summer reading programs, as well as an all-ages makerspace that encourages collaborative creative work.
Westport Public Library, Connecticut
Westport Library is one of the 1% of public libraries to earn a 5-star rating from
Library Journal, and the honor is well-deserved. It was one of the first libraries in the U.S. to develop a MakerSpace, which is a collaborative workspace for creative projects — and hosts an incredible range of events, from children's book readings to workshops in robotics and 3D printing.
Wilmington Public Library, Delaware
This library has been renovated several times since it was first founded in the 18th century, but its striking facade looks almost the same as it did three centuries ago.
Gulf Gate Public Library, Florida
The Gulf Gate Library was named the
most beautiful library in Florida by Business Insider — but the inside is even more spectacular. The library is a fantastic community space, with meeting and conference rooms, a large teen center, two gorgeous reading gardens, a technology lab, and a dedicated children's storytime room.
Decatur Library, Georgia
The Decatur Library is open seven days a week, so you can time your visit whenever suits you best. As well as books, the library lends out CDs and DVDs, and even hosts movie screenings. There's also a seed library, so budding gardeners can "check out" seeds to start their own vegetable gardens!
Hawaii State Library, Hawaii
As you walk up to this library in the bright sunshine, you'll instantly be reminded why libraries are some of the happiest places on earth.
Coeur D'Alene Public Library, Idaho
The Coeur D'Alene Public Library has beautiful views straight over the lake, providing a stunning and calming backdrop to your reading. The library also won an Idaho Library of the Year award in 2012.
Harold Washington Library Center, Illinois
The Harold Washington Library Center is filled with so much more than just books. Relax in the quiet indoor Winter Garden; research your family history in the library's genealogy database; practice the piano in the only free music practice rooms in the city. The author events are also pretty outstanding: previous speakers include Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon.
Indianapolis Central Library, Indiana
The Indianapolis Central Library is pretty breathtaking to look at, with its seamless blend of old and new architecture. As well as book-related events, the library also hosts family-friendly jazz concerts.
State Library of Iowa's Law Library, Iowa
The 19th-century Iowa State Law Library is the stuff book-lovers dream of. You'll feel like Belle winding your away around the delicate spiral staircases, and gazing at shelves that seem to go on forever.
Lawrence Public Library, Kansas
The eye-catching Lawrence Public Library in Kansas won an AIA/ALA Library Building Award in 2016 for its stand-out architecture, as well as a Landmark Libraries Award from
Library Journal — so it's got some serious credentials. One of the best features is a community reading room that wraps the whole way around the library.
Louisville Free Public Library, Kentucky
Courtesy of the Louisville Free Public Library
And now for another award-winning library: the Southwest Regional Library branch of the Louisville Free Public Library won an Honor Award as part of the AIA's Kentucky Design Awards in 2016. Once you look at its striking wooden design, it's easy to see why.
East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Louisiana
Now here's a library that's not just good for bookworms, but for the environment too. The East Baton Rouge Parish Library has a sloped roof that catches rainwater and feeds it to surrounding plants. It's also got a stunning recycled paper waterfall that spans three floors. Yep, this is a library unlike any you've seen before.
Portland Public Library, Maine
In a city full of Victorian architecture, the modern Portland Public Library certainly stands out. Its glass facade earned it an AIA Maine Honor Award and an AIA New England Design Award.
George Peabody Library, Maryland
When you stand in the lobby of the George Peabody Library, you can see into all five floors of books. The ceiling is 61 foot high, and complete with a massive skylight, which earned the library the description of "
a cathedral of books" when it was first completed back in 1878.
Boston Public Library, Massachusetts
The Boston Public Library is the third largest in the U.S. and holds a whopping 21 million items, so it's a pretty iconic place to visit. It's also absolutely stunning, and features a courtyard based on the 16th-century Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Could there be
anywhere better to sit and read?
Kalamazoo Public Library, Michigan
The Kalamazoo Public Library is beloved by its community; that much is clear from the citizens' long history of voting to continue funding the library. The library encourages community reading with programs such as the Reading Together program — and every one of their 90 staff is passionate about connecting readers with their perfect book.
Minneapolis Central Library, Minnesota
The Minneapolis Central Library has no interior load-bearing walls, making it stunningly light and open. Wherever you're sitting in the library, you get a great view of the other floors and staircases you can explore.
Mississippi Library Commission Headquarters, Mississippi
If you've always fantasized about reading in the woods, the Mississippi Library Commission Headquarters is the place for you. The woods are
literally right outside the door — and the building itself is made of natural materials like wood and stone, making you feel like you're slap bang in the middle of nature.
Kansas City Public Library, Missouri
The iconic walls of the Kansas City Public Library show off 25-foot versions of some of the library's best-loved books, from
Charlotte's Web to Catch-22.
Billings Public Library, Montana
adore the children's area at the Billings Public Library, which features a tower that juts out to the sky. Its all-glass facade makes it a wonderfully light place to read.
Nebraska State Library, Nebraska
Courtesy of Nebraska State Library
The Nebraska State Library is the oldest library in the state, so it makes for a fascinating stop on your literary road trip.
Courtesy of Sierra Nevada College
The students at the liberal arts college Sierra Nevada College better know how lucky they are that they get to visit this picturesque cabin in the woods to study.
Phillips Exeter Academy Library, New Hampshire
The AIA have awarded the Phillips Exeter Academy Library time and time again for its totally unique architecture and modern, circular staircases.
Firestone Library, New Jersey
The Firestone Library at Princeton University has more books per student enrolled than any library at any other university in the U.S. — pretty incredible, huh?
Artesia Public Library, New Mexico
This statue outside the Artesia Public Library will inspire you to go and check out a book at once, and once you're inside the stunning library, you'll never want to leave.
Morgan Library, New York
Narrowing down the best library in New York is a near-impossible task — but the stunningly beautiful Morgan Library is something extra-special. This scholarly research library houses some of the most extensive collections of ancient texts and manuscripts — but before you get stuck into those, you'll have to tear your eyes away from
that gorgeous ceiling.
James B. Hunt Library, North Carolina
Light shines in to the super-modern James B. Hunt Library at all times of day, making the jazzy furniture look even more quirky and colorful.
North Dakota State Library, North Dakota
It's hard not to be impressed by the stately North Dakota State Library, with its stone columns and heavy bronze doors — and its book collection is even
William Oxley Thompson Library, Ohio
The massive William Oxley Thompson Library scooped an AIA/ALA Library Building Award in 2011 after a three-year renovation which saw the addition of glass walls and a light, modern interior.
Bizzell Memorial Library, Oklahoma
The warm, inviting exterior of the Bizzell Memorial Library will make you instantly jealous of every Oklahoma University student who gets to visit this library on a daily basis.
Ashland Public Library, Oregon
Gazing out the windows of the Ashland Public Library, you can stare straight over to the surrounding mountains. Now that's
quite the backdrop for some quiet reading.
Braddock Carnegie Library, Pennsylvania
I mean, just
look at this library. Even from the outside, it's absolutely beautiful, and inside, things only get even more exciting — with events ranging from screen printing workshops to ceramic making.
Providence Athenaeum, Rhode Island
The Providence Athenaeum is the fourth-oldest library in the U.S., and was founded in 1753.
Thomas Cooper Library, South Carolina
The Thomas Cooper library at the University of South Caroline overlooks a large pond, and its reflection at night time looks positively dreamy.
Hot Springs Public Library, South Dakota
The rustic Hot Springs Public Library is a real community center in South Dakota — and sitting out on the sunny patio with a book in your hand, you'll definitely be glad you paid it a visit.
Nashville Bellevue Library, Tennessee
The Nashville Bellevue Library won a 2015 AIA Tennessee Merit Award for its flexible design, that caters equally well to large groups or intimate gatherings. As well as its book collection, the library also houses a large collection of public art — as well as being home to some scenic walking paths.
Mission Branch Library, Texas
As well as an impressive collection of 50,000 books, the Mission Branch library has a playground and exercise equipment — so you can drag the whole family along even if you're the only bookworm in the bunch.
Salt Lake City Public Library, Utah
Get 360 degree views of the city from the rooftop garden of this incredible library, that seems almost entirely made from glass.
St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and Public Library, Vermont
The St Johnsbury Athenaeum looks the library you always fantasized about having in your house — and it also houses one of the U.S.'s oldest art galleries for browsing when you need a break from the books.
Slover Library, Virginia
The Slover Public Library scored an AIA/ALA Library Building Award in 2015 for its modern and unusual architecture. The open air balconies are just gorgeous for reading in the sun.
Seattle Central Library, Washington
It's hard to walk past the Seattle Central Library without your jaw hitting the floor at its unique design — and it's even
more innovative inside. One of the most exciting features is the "book spiral," which allows readers to browse a winding ramp of shelves spanning four floors, without ever heading for the stairs.
West Virginia University Library, West Virginia
Courtesy of WVU Libraries
It's hard to visit the West Virginia University Library without being jealous of the students casually reading on the sloping grass outside. If only we could
all spend our days studying by this lovely library.
Milwaukee Public Library, Wisconsin
A national competition was held in 1878 to choose the design for the Milwaukee Public Library. This stunning one was selected from 74 entries.
Sublette County Library, Wyoming
"Sentinel" sculpture by David K. Klarén in front of Big Piney Branch of Sublette County Library / Photo courtesy of David K. Klarén
This Wyoming library has such an alluring country aesthetic, which won it a Western Mountain Region Distinguished Building Award in 2009. There are two branches, and each has its own charms — but they're both equally stunning.