Ten Unusual and Amazing Libraries We’d Love To Visit

Posted by Kristin Centorcelli

I have wonderful memories of hanging out at the library as a kid, I’d had access to the libraries on this list, it’s where I would have spent most my time. 

Included on the list are some pretty exotic and beautiful libraries that will make you want to travel the world just to visit, but also in the mix are some that might just be closer to home than you think.
1. One of my favorites is the Nassau Public Library Reading Room and Museum (pictured above). Not only is it on the island of Nassau, in the Bahamas, but it actually used to be a jail. Constructed in 1797, the prison cells now hold books instead of prisoners and there’s also a museum featuring Arawak artifacts and historic prints. If you’re lucky enough to visit the paradise that is Nassau, make this a must see! Photo via

2. 2nd on the list is Hernando Guanlao’s library in the Philippines. This one certainly qualifies as unusual because it’s right outside his home, and consists entirely of his own collection. Wanting to share his love of books with his community, there’s only one rule: there are no rules. Folks can take as many books as they want, for as long as they want.
He started his library in 2000 after his parent’s death, wanting to do something to honor their memory, and the library has only grown since then. What really makes Guanlao’s library beyond cool is that most folks bring extra books back to donate when they return books they’ve borrowed, hence the enormous growth of his collection. 
He also travels to the poorest communities on his “book bike”, delivering the joy of books to adults and children that might not otherwise have access. 
3. Here’s an ingenious idea that will make you look twice: The Arma de Instrucción Masiva or Weapon of Mass Instruction. It’s a tank, but it’s not just any tank. It’s a 1979 Ford Falcon, once used by the Argentine armed forces that’s been transformed by Raul Lemesoff into a traveling library. 
This very special vehicle travels through Argentina offering free books to the masses. Books, not bombs, indeed. Image via
4. Biblioteca Sandro Penna: Next we head to Italy where you can visit a library that was actually designed to look just like a spaceship, and it certainly succeeded! Located in Perugia, it was named for the 20th century poet Sandro Penna, and it boasts three stories and transparent walls. Ahhh, Italy.
5. In the UK, there is a library that fits into a phonebooth, and thoughts of Dr. Who aside, what a cool way to get folks excited about reading! When the teeny village of Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset saw their weekly mobile library go the way of the dodo, a local resident decided to recycle a phone booth into a library, and this most unusual micro library was born. Image via.
6. Speaking of micro libraries, the 100 Story House that debuted in Brooklyn from September-October 2012 was a public art project by Julia Marchesi and Leon Reid IV. Gracing JJ Byrne Park on 5 th Avenue, the 100 Story House encouraged folks to bring books by they no longer wanted, and take some with them in return.
Conceived as a piece of interactive public art, its fairy tale aesthetic also drew the eyes of children and adults alike, and fostered a continued love of reading to boot!
7. Now, this one isn’t a brick and mortar library, but it’s so cool, I felt I needed to include it. Keeping the spirit of New York in mind, the Underground New York Public Library is a photo series featuring the riders of the NYC subway in all of their reading glory. 
In the words of its creator “This library freely lends out a reminder that we’re capable of traveling to great depths within ourselves and as a whole.” To add to the cool factor, the Tumblr members of the library also post their own poetry to the site.
8. Making old things new and recycling objects into wonderful and intriguing things is wildly popular. They’ve done this to great effect with BiebBus, a mobile library made from a shipping container. It’s ingeniously designed and travels to area schools with the goal of getting kids excited about reading. I haven’t been a kid for a while, but if the BiebBus visited my area, I’d be giddy as a schoolgirl!
9. We return to the States with an in-your-face to big box mega stores. Here in my neck of the woods, in McAllen, TX, a library has popped up in the most unlikely place: an abandoned Wal-Mart. In fact, Meyer, Scherer, & Rockcastle’s design won the 2012 Library Interior Design Competition (who knew??), and now McAllen and all nearby residents have access to a whopping 124,500 sq. feet of book space!
That’s ginormous! If all that doesn’t make your cool radar tingle, consider the 23% new user registration within the first month of opening. Now that is very cool.
10. And last, let’s be off to Beijing, China where self-service libraries are all the rage! Yep, these libraries look strikingly like ATMs and more than 50 have appeared in the city with more than a 100 planned for the next year. Each library houses 2,000 books that can be “checked out” 25 hours a day.