10 Public Libraries with stunning architecture, collections and technology!
In 1731, Ben Franklin set up America's first public library in Philadelphia. Since then, libraries have become one of the most treasured parts of communities across the country.
There are 16,766 public libraries in the U.S. more than the number of McDonald's. Fifty percent of us have used a library in the last year, and 68% of adults have a library card. While most people appreciate a quiet place to read and study, libraries offer more services than just books; many offer computer and internet access, literacy programs, e-books, help with job searches and resume' writing and much more. The average cost to the taxpayer? A measly $31 per person.
A couple more fun facts: the biggest fine for an overdue book is $354.15, for a book that was checked out in 1955 from an Illinois library. In 2002, the daughter of the woman who'd checked the book out found it in her mother's house, and presented the library with a check for that fine.
Oh yeah, and the book that's most stolen from libraries? The Bible.
Now, here are ten libraries worth "checking out." But remember: "Shhhhhh."
1. THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, NEW YORK CITY, NY
It's the third largest public library in the U.S. with over 50 million items in its collection, including the first Gutenberg Bible to come to this country. The Rose Main Reading Room stretches for two city blocks, has gorgeous chandeliers and huge windows. You might recognize this library for its role in several movies, including "Ghostbusters."
2. THE MORGAN LIBRARY & MUSEUM, NEW YORK CITY, NY
Formed in 1906, it holds the private collection of banking mogul, J.P. Morgan and has since expanded to include many fascinating items. There are original manuscripts by Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, Bob Dylan's original lyrics to "Blowin' In the Wind," and drawings by Leonardo, Picasso and Rembrandt, to name a few.
3. THE BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY, BOSTON, MA
The McKim Building was built in 1895 and features some breathtaking artwork, like the Victorian mural depicting the Holy Grail. The building also houses rarities including medieval manuscripts, a Shakespeare "First Folio," and the personal libraries of famous Americans like John Adams.
4. THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, WASHINGTON, DC
It's the largest library in America - and in the world. There are 32 million books and 61 million manuscripts, including a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. The library also houses one of only four Gutenberg Bibles in the world. Have a look at any of the 1 million newspapers from the last three hundred years, papers and artifacts from Lincoln, a collection of 2,100 early baseball cards and much more.
5. KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY, KANSAS CITY, MO
The whimsical outside of the parking garage features giant book "spines." The main building, built in 1906, was originally a bank; movie screenings are held inside the original vault. Local parents love the magical reading room for kids, and those looking to find a job, start a business or better organize their finances take advantage of the library's Business and Career Center.
6. ARMSTRONG BROWNING LIBRARY, WACO, TX
Located on the campus of Baylor University, this library is dedicated to the works of Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning, and houses the world's largest collection of their manuscripts, letters and more. The library is also known for its breathtaking stained glass windows and artwork, which draws thousands of tourists each year.
7. SALT LAKE CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY, SALT LAKE CITY, UT
This contemporary-style building was designed with a commitment to natural lighting - which is supplied courtesy of a 20,000 square foot skylight. The top of the library has a rooftop garden, and inside, holds half a million books as well as a massive collection of digital products, including "zines." Library employees are committed to helping spread digital literacy, and will show you how to use various devices.
8. LOS ANGELES CENTRAL LIBRARY, LOS ANGELES
Built in 1926, it's the largest library in the western part of the U.S. While you may stop in to take a class or check out a book, you'll spend a good amount of time just gazing at the amazing design, both inside and out. The architecture reflects the enlightenment of ancient Egypt; a tiled pyramid sits atop the roof. Inside are glorious chandeliers, murals inspired by fairy tales and more eye candy.
9. ST. HELENA PUBLIC LIBRARY, ST. HELENA, CA
Wine lovers should definitely make this a stop when they're in California wine country. It contains the Napa Valley Wine Library, with over 3,000 books related to vino (including rare volumes from the 19th and 20th centuries). There's also a small vineyard in the backyard!
10. SEATTLE CENTRAL LIBRARY, SEATTLE, WA
This one turns the traditional idea of the library upside down with its sleek glass and steel design. Since it opened in 2004, it's become a favorite resource for locals, with 400 free computers, wi-fi, a language center and a coffee shop. Oh yeah, and over a million books.