Jocelyn Pontes ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
Anyone who loves books and has the means to travel cannot pass up the opportunity to see these five incredible world-renowned libraries. Famous for their history, beauty, and vast collections of items, these libraries welcome the visit of anyone with insatiable wanderlust and a love for the written word.
The British Library: London, England
The largest library in the world, the British Library in London, England, is a must-visit for any book lover. It has over 150 million items, 14 million of them books. Once a branch of the British Museum, the library also houses a trove of historical objects, including original manuscripts by famous authors. The items range in age from present-day to roughly 2,000 BC, making this library a paramount destination for anyone interested in history. But perhaps its most exciting attraction is the Harry Potter exhibition, “A History of Magic.” The exhibition, open until February 28, 2018, features items that embody the myths, legends, and magic of the Harry Potter world. These include some of J. K. Rowling’s original writings and sketches. This makes the library a pilgrimage site for devoted Harry Potter fans. Whether visitors want to do research, marvel at incredible artifacts, or get their Harry Potter fix, the British Library is something one simply can’t miss.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Alexandria, Egypt
With vast archives and a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, offers the literary globe-trotter a unique experience entrenched in history. The original Library of Alexandria, a cultural capital of classical antiquity, was destroyed several thousand years ago. The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina was constructed in 2002 near the site of the original library, representing the revival of this ancient epicenter for knowledge. Millions of books fit comfortably in its 220,000 square feet and eleven floors. It also has four art galleries, a preservation lab, and a planetarium. Besides the many wonders within, this library is also worth visiting for its architecture. Its modern, curved facade is engraved with characters of 120 writing systems. With items donated from all over the world, this library is a depository of mankind’s collective story.
Strahov Library: Prague, Czech Republic
A visit to the Strahov Library in Prague, Czech Republic, is worthwhile mainly for its utter beauty. Its ornate arching ceilings with detailed frescoes and its walls of centuries-old volumes surround the visitor with a cozy atmosphere of bookish splendor. The library comprises the Theological Hall and the Philosophical Hall, and it is part of the Strahov Monastery. The amassing of the library’s collection began at the time of the monastery’s founding in the 12th century. Since then, its archive of items has bloomed to the hundreds of thousands. It houses Medieval prints, maps, and manuscripts as well as books, the most valued items dating back to the 9th century. Due to a fire, two instances of plunder, expansion, and bombardment during war, the library’s design and decoration have transformed drastically over the centuries, making it an architectural chimera of Romanesque, Baroque, and other styles. The amalgamation of this history alone is a powerful draw to the site, making it a definite must-see.
Kanazawa Umimirai Library: Kanazawa, Japan
The contemporary design of the Kanazawa Umimirai Library in Kanazawa, Japan, makes it a beautiful destination for the traveling book lover. With its simplicity and white color scheme, this library provides its visitors with a calm atmosphere to read in peace with no distractions. The white concrete walls of the box-shaped building have grid patterns of 6,000 circular glass windows that let in natural light, washing the cavernous rooms in sunlight. To spend time in the library’s main reading room, with a roughly 40-foot-high ceiling, is a soothing, enriching experience as visitors wander through the myriad of bookshelves. The physical presence of the books that surround visitors on all sides adds to the tranquil atmosphere, making it the perfect place to relax and allow oneself to be immersed in one’s reading. The simplistic beauty and peacefulness of the Kanazawa Umimirai Library attracts travelers from across the globe.
Central Library of UNAM: Mexico City, Mexico
Opened in 1956, the Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, Mexico, distinguishes itself as one of the best libraries in the world due to its vast collection and beautiful artistic design. Stretching across its four outer walls is one of the largest mosaic murals in the world, depicting Mexican history and entitled “Historical Representation of Culture,” by the artist Juan O’Gorman. Exquisitely detailed, this iconic masterpiece alone makes the library well worth visiting. It has one of the largest archives of materials in all of Mexico: over one million items, and nearly 600,000 books. In 2007, UNESCO named the library as a World Heritage Site, prompting book lovers from all over the world to flock to this incredible library. It is a can’t miss library for anyone with the ability to travel.
These libraries are unlike any others. They serve as monuments to history and sanctuaries for collective knowledge. With their incredible beauty, their wealth of items, and a touch of magic, these international libraries will spark a thirst for travel in the hearts of all voracious readers.