Print is dead, they said. No one has the attention span to read anything longer than a comedic listicle, they said.
They clearly hadn’t seen the National Library of China, or the Stuttgart City Library, or the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, or the State Library of South Australia – because these babies make books look good.
An an era of e-books, some may question the continued relevance of libraries. We’d rather surf Instagram than try to decipher the language of Shakespeare. Yet even in the digital age, libraries hold an allure we can’t quite shake. They’re cultural institutions, inviting public spaces, sanctuaries of knowledge, tributes to human creativity. Whether grand and gilded, or modern and minimal, the library is a reminder of mankind’s potential.
Early libraries catered to the privileged classes, and boast the architecture to match. They’re lavish, often church-like, with elaborate artwork and design details. As reading reached the masses, libraries remained elegant but became more open, and by the 21st century, some are downright daring and innovative.
“The modern library is inclusive and accommodates all social classes, genders and ages. It seems the very nature of the library, as a cathedral of knowledge, has encouraged architects to challenge tradition and be experimental,” said Maeve Convery, editor of Reflections: Libraries, in an email to Slate.
Regardless of your taste in design or literature, there’s a library that will take your breath away. Above you’ll find 30 of the world’s coolest libraries enticing bookworms around the world.