Celebrating Library Lovers’ Month: Five Amazing Libraries in the US

Posted by Jenn Lawrence

The Library of Congress’ Great Hall

February is Library Lover’s Month, a month intended to recognize the value of libraries country-wide. How better to celebrate this month than to spotlight several of the top libraries that exist around the country?

New York Public Library (New York, NY): The New York Public Library opened it’s doors on May 24, 1911 as New York City’s first public library. On opening day alone, between 30,000 and 50,000 patrons walked through the doors.
A hundred and sixty years later, the collections of The New York Public Library now exceed 65 million items, including first Gutenberg Bible to come to the United States and the original stuffed teddy bear that inspired the Winnie the Pooh books. In addition to being a valued literary institution, the New York Public Library has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, and The Day After Tomorrow.
Library of Congress (Washington, DC)This DC-based book blogger can’t help start out this list with the nation’s library, The Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Established by an act of Congress in 1800, the original intent of the Library was to serve as a reference library for Congress only.
Originally housed in the Capitol the originally collection of the small library was destroyed when invading British Troops set fire to the Capitol Building. Retired President Thomas Jefferson offered up his own library as a replacement. Jefferson spent over 50 years accumulating this library of 6,487 titles ranging from books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, to science, literature, and other topics.
Today’s Library of Congress is the largest in the world with a collection of more than 144 million items, including maps, sheet music, photographs and newspapers from the last three centuries.
Seattle Central Library (Seattle, WA): A monument to literature, the eleven-level Central Library opened its doors in 2004. With a capacity for more than 1.45 million books and materials the library currently holds million items in the collection and 9,906 shelves devoted to books. In addition to the voluminous collection, the library is also home to more than 400 computers for public use, up from the 75 computers available in the previous building. A coffee, chocolate, and sandwich shop round out the rewarding experience.
Boston Public LIbrary (Boston, MA): Founded in 1850, the Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The same year the first location was opened it was realized that the small former schoolhouse was not large enough to sustain the library’s vast collection. In 1895 the current Copley Square location was opened.
The library now holds a collection of over 22 million items, making it the second largest library in the United States. First edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart, and the personal library of John Adams are just a sample of the vast historical material contained within the library’s walls.
James B. Hunt Jr. Library (North Carolina State University): The only college library to make this list, the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University is considered one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the world. This hefty title is due to the bionic librarian, bookBot, robots that track the library’s 18,000 book collection. When a patron requests a book from the collection, bookBot retrieves it within seconds from an elaborate, yet organized, system of storage in bins. This system reduces the amount of space required for the books to that of 1/9 the average library. In addition to the state-of-the art library system, the James B. Hunt Jr. Library is home to a wealth of technologically advanced spaces, giving students the ability to videoconference and perform other types of multi-media research.
With 100 rooms available for students to reserve, the library also grants students a venue for working collaboratively on projects, something that was clearly lacking in the past. While skeptics are quite vocal about the “closed shelf” system of the James. B. Hunt Jr. Library, one can’t help but wonder if this library is a glimpse of the future of the library system.

Jenn is a working mom who has mastered the art of balancing family life and her obsessive reading habit. Find her on twitter (@jennbookshelves) or over on her blog, jennsbookshelves.com