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62 of the World's Most Beautiful Libraries

For the last couple years, Jill Harness has been rounding up the world's most beautiful libraries by continent. Here they are all in one place, in no particular order.

1. TRINITY COLLEGE LIBRARY // IRELAND

Image courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours' Flickr stream.

Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, with two story dark wooden arches, this is also the largest library in all of Ireland. It serves as the country’s copyright library, where a copy of all new books and periodicals must be sent when they apply for copyright protection. The library is also home to the famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks around the year 800.

2. BRISTOL CENTRAL LIBRARY // ENGLAND

Image courtesy of Steve Cadman's Flickr stream.

This library, completed in 1906, is fascinating for its unique combination of architectural styles. The front exterior was designed in Tudor Revival and Modern Movement styles in order to allow it to harmonize with the next-door Abbey Gatehouse. It was built on a slope, and the front of the building is only three stories tall, but thanks to the two basement levels built into the hill, the back of the building has five stories. Inside, the design is mostly Classical, featuring ample arches, marble flooring and a stunning turquoise glass mosaic at the entrance hall.

3. CODRINGTON LIBRARY // ENGLAND

Images courtesy of Miguel Bernas' and Beth Hoffman's Flickr streams.

The Codrington Library of Oxford University was completed in 1751 and has been used by scholars ever since. In the late 1990s, the building underwent a massive renovation in order to provide better protection for the books and to make the library more user friendly with better wiring and some new electronic work stations.

4. BIBLIOTHEQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE // FRANCE

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Zubro.

The National Library of France has expanded greatly since new buildings were added to house the collection in 1988. Even so, the old buildings on the Rue de Richelieu are still in use, and are utterly gorgeous as well. These buildings were completed in 1868, and by 1896 the library was the largest book repository in the world, although that record has since been taken from it.

5. The Library of El Escorial, Spain

Image courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar's Flickr stream.

This library is located in the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the historical residence of the king of Spain. Phillip II was responsible for adding the library and most of the books originally held within. The vaulted ceilings were painted with gorgeous frescoes, each representing one of the seven liberal arts: rhetoric, dialectic, music, grammar, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. These days, the library is a World Heritage Site, and it holds more than 40,000 volumes.

6. Biblioteca Geral, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Images courtesy of Taco Ekkel's and Mick L's Flickr streams.

The General Library of the University of Coimbra consists of two buildings: the New Building built in 1962, and the Joanina Library built in 1725. The Joanina Library is adorned with Baroque décor and houses the library’s volumes that date from before 1800.

7. HANDELINGENKAMER, NETHERLANDS

Image courtesy of Jackie Kever's Flickr stream.

The library of the Dutch Parliament contains every record of parliamentary hearings and discussions. Because it was built before electric lighting made the storage of books a lot safer, the building was constructed with a massive leaded glass dome in the ceiling to allow in light and minimize the need for candles and gas lamps inside the library.

8. DELFT UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY LIBRARY // NETHERLANDS

Images courtesy of Robert Lochner's and Thomas Guignard's Flickr streams.

While modern architecture can often be fascinating, it rarely stands up to more classical designs in terms of beauty. The Delft University of Technology library is a rare exception. With a massive skylight in the ceiling that becomes a steel cone after escaping the confines of the library, and an eco-friendly grass-covered roof, the library is both stunning and totally modern.

9. ABBEY LIBRARY OF ST. GALLEN // SWITZERLAND

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Stibiwiki.

This lovely library is not only the oldest in Switzerland, but one of the oldest and most important monastery libraries in the world, holding over 160,000 volumes many of which date back as far as the 8th century. The Rococo-styled library is often considered one of the most perfect libraries in the world and has earned the Abbey recognition as a World Heritage Site.

10. ADMONT ABBEY LIBRARY // AUSTRIA

Built in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is the largest monastery library in the world. The ceiling is adorned with frescoes depicting the stages of human knowledge up until the Divine Revelation. The entire design reflects the ideals and values of the Enlightenment.

11. Melk Monastery Library, Austria

The Baroque-styled abbey and the library within were completed in 1736 based on designs by Jakob Prandtauer. The library includes a world-famous collection of musical manuscripts and features stunning frescoes by artist Paul Troger.

12. AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY // AUSTRIA

Images courtesy of Craig Elliot's and Jessica Curtin's Flickr streams.

Austria’s largest library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses over 7.4 million items in its collections. The library was completed in 1723 and features sculptures by Lorenzo Mattielli and Peter Strudel and frescoes by Daniel Gran.

13. WIBLINGEN MONASTERY LIBRARY // GERMANY

Image courtesy of volzotan's Flickr stream.

This library, completed in 1744, was modeled in the Baroque style after the Austrian National Library, but it is by no means just a cheap imitation of the original, and it certainly stands on its own. Just outside the library there is an inscription reading “In quo omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae,” which translates to “In which are stored all treasures of knowledge and science.”

14. STRAHOV MONASTERY LIBRARY // CZECH REPUBLIC

Image courtesy of Claudia Dias' Flickr stream.

This impressive library collection contains over 200,000 volumes, including just about every important title printed in central Europe by the end of the 18th century. And as if the gorgeous décor and impressive book collection weren’t impressive enough on their own, the library also has a favorite feature of many geeks –- two secret passageways hidden by bookshelves and opened with fake books.

15. CLEMENTINUM NATIONAL LIBRARY // CZECH REPUBLIC

Image courtesy of Bruno Delzant's Flickr stream.

The series of buildings that make up this National Library owe their inception to an 11th century chapel dedicated to Saint Clement (hence the name). The National Library itself was founded in 1781, constructed in a Baroque style, and has served as a copyright library since 1782. The collection now includes historical examples of Czech literature, special materials relating to Tycho Brahe, and a unique collection of Mozart’s personal effects.

16. THE ROYAL PORTUGUESE READING ROOM // BRAZIL

Images courtesy of Luciano Joaquim's and Sebastian R.'sFlickr streams.

The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura in Rio de Janeiro holds more Portuguese works than anywhere else outside of Portugal, including a number of rare titles. Completed in 1887, the building's design is based on the Gothic-renaissance style that was popular at the time of the Portuguese colonization of Brazil. Inside the library are both a stunning chandelier and a gorgeous iron skylight that was the first of its kind in the country.

17. THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF BRAZIL // BRAZIL

Image courtesy of Patricia Valeria's and Yuken Chen's Flickr streams.

Another amazing library of Rio, the National Library of Brazil was constructed back in 1810 and has since become the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world. As a copyright library, publishers have been required to send over one copy of every title they've published since 1907, pushing the library’s collection to over 9 million items, including a number of rare books and an extensive collection of over 21,500 photos all dating from before 1890.

18. The National Library of Chile

Image courtesy of Ejercito de Chile's Flickr stream.

Featuring a similar style to the National Library of Brazil, this beautiful building was designed in 1913 and completed in 1925 with a neoclassical design meant to commemorate the country’s centenary anniversary. Aside from housing the National Library, the building serves as headquarters to the country’s National Archives.

19. THE LIBRARY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY // Peru

Images courtesy of Sierra Michels Slettvet's and dgphilli's Flickr streams.

The library in Lima’s San Francisco Monastery is one of the oldest and most beautiful on the continent. The stunning convent was completed in 1672, with renovations and improvements continuing up until 1729. The 25,000 volumes contained therein are extremely rare, chronicling a massive variety of knowledge dating from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

20. HOME OF PERUVIAN LITERATURE // PERU

Image courtesy of Chimi Fotos' Flickr stream.

If you think the architecture of this building looks familiar, that’s because it was a commonly used design for train stations around the early 1900s. As for why this library looks like a train station, well, that’s simple—it used to be one. In fact, it wasn’t converted into a library until 2009. In an effort to get more of the country’s citizens to read and to support the country’s artists and writers, the library features over 20,000 works, mostly written by or about native Peruvians.

21. PUBLIC LIBRARY OF LIMA// PERU

Image courtesy of The Librarian is In.

The previous home to the National Library of Peru, the Public Library of Lima was completed in the 1940s with a small addition completed in 1974. It's been declared a historical monument by the country’s National Institute of Culture. The main gallery features marble floors and stairs, sculptures of the library’s founders, and gorgeous high ceilings.

22. NATIONAL LIBRARY // COSTA RICA

Images courtesy of The National Library System of Costa Rica and Alex Watkins' Flickr stream.

With a massive upside-down arch above a glass window and concrete levels sandwiching a fragile-looking glass central story, the National Library of Costa Rica is quite striking. It still appears modern despite being over 40 years old. Unfortunately, the location has been subject to a number of earthquakes, leading to a number of closures over the years.

23. VIRGILIO BARCO LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of elroquero's and Colombia Travel's Flickr streams.

If you are a fan of modern architectural design, then you’ll really love what Colombia has created in the last decade or so. Famed architect Rogelio Salmona designed this library, completed in 2001. Featuring red brick walls, blue water pools and green lawns, this creative design looks like a maze of colors housing a labyrinth of books inside.

24. SPANISH PARK LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of Daniel Echeverri's and dfinnecy's Flickr streams.

The Parque Biblioteca España stands out from its native Santo Domingo more than any other library on this list. That’s because the striking modernist design of its three boulder-like structures stands in stark contrast to the simple homes of the neighborhood around them. The architect designed the building, specifically its odd windows, as a way to help the impoverished community imagine bigger and better things, says architect Giancarlo Mazzanti. “We wanted to take people from this poor community into another place and change their reality.”

25. EPM LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of Guia de Viajes Oficial de Medellin's and Biblioteca EPM's Flickr streams.

Designed like an upside-down pyramid, the EPM library, completed in 2005, may be a unique architectural feat, but its best-known feature remains the odd forest of white columns located just outside. Even so, the 107,000 square foot interior is quite beautiful, particularly the strikingly angled walls.

26. VILLANUEVA PUBLIC LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of Nicolas Cabrera via Dezeen.

Perhaps the most famous of Colombia’s new libraries is the Villanueva Public Library, which was constructed using not only locally sourced materials, but also by the people of the village. Stones were gathered from nearby rivers and sustainable wood from nearby forests, and local people were trained to help construct the building. The design, created by four nearby college students, focuses on natural ventilation and plenty of shade to keep the interior nice and cool. All of these cost-cutting measures went a long way in helping a truly impoverished area secure a much-needed library.

27. Central Library of Vancouver, Canada

Images courtesy of Evan Leeson's and David J. Laporte's Flickr stream.

Many modern building designs are based on historical icons, but few of these designs focus on the ruins rather than the original. The Central Library of Vancouver is an exception. Based on the Roman Coliseum, this massive building takes up one full city block and features not only a library with 1.3 million reference materials, but also retail shops, restaurants, a parking structure, office buildings and a rooftop garden.

28. LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT // CANADA

Images courtesy of Wikipedia users Wladyslaw and Alejandro Erickson.

The Library of Parliament was once part of the city’s original Parliamentary headquarters constructed in 1876. The building had been under construction for ten years before it was revealed that the builders didn’t know how to create a domed roof as seen in the plans. To get around this issue, the Tomas Fairbairn Engineering Company of England was commissioned to create a pre-fabricated dome. As a result, the building had the distinction of being the first building in North America to have a wrought iron roof. The unique Gothic building is so iconic that today it is even featured on the Canadian ten-dollar bill.

29. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS // USA

Images courtesy of NCinDC's and BamaLawDog's Flickr streams.

The Library of Congress, a personal favorite, is the largest library in the entire world as ranked by both shelf space and number of books. Among its several buildings, the oldest is the Thomas Jefferson Building, which just might be the most beautiful structure in the library system. Completed in 1897, the library's neoclassical style features some of the most intricate interiors of any building in the U.S., including murals and sculptures from a variety of classically-trained American artists. Interestingly, the building’s exterior was even more lavish than it is now, as it was originally gilded, but this was criticized as it was believed to draw attention away from the Capitol Building. These days, the roof consists merely of copper that has aged to a sea green shade.

30. STEPHEN A. SCHWARZMAN LIBRARY // USA

Images courtesy of melanzane1013's Flickr stream and Wikipedia user Diliff.

You might recognize this National Historical Landmark, better known simply as the “New York Public Library,” by the two stone lions guarding the building (known as either Lord Astor and Lady Lenox or Patience and Fortitude). Inside, the wooden shelves, frescoed ceilings and grand chandeliers give the entire building an old-world feel. Completed in 1911, the library featured more than 75 miles of shelves when it was first opened. The collection still managed to grow too large for its home by 1970, so the library was expanded by adding an underground area that extends under nearby Bryant Park.

31. FREDERICK FERRIS THOMPSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY IN VASSAR COLLEGE // USA

Images courtesy of mebrett's Flickr stream and Wikipedia user noteremote.

This massive Gothic structure consists of three wings and a central tower, and now houses around a million books, 7500 periodicals, and a massive microfilm and microfiche collection. While the main tower is quite striking, the most famous part of the library is the enormous stained glass window in the West Wing showing Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman to earn a doctorate in Europe, receiving her degree from the University of Padua.

32. JAY WALKER'S PRIVATE LIBRARY // USA

Images courtesy of Aaron "tango" Tang's Flickr stream.

Priceline.com founder Jay Walker's gorgeous wooden library, filled with an array of historical and pop culture artifacts, has been labeled by Wired as "the most amazing library in the world.” As if the gorgeous etched glass, labyrinthine design and multiple stories of book shelves weren’t impressive enough, the collection of rarities stored in the library is completely mesmerizing. Between books bound in rubies, a Sputnik, a chandelier from Die Another Day, and a list of plague mortalities from 1665, visitors to the private library might just have a hard time leaving.

33. HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY // USA

Images courtesy of Douglas Kaye and clarkmaxwell's Flickr stream.

This is one of my favorite modern library designs as it takes new construction techniques and applies them to neoclassical building styles. The result is a vintage look with a modern twist. The red brick base perfectly balances the glass rooftop adorned with seven massive aluminum adornments. Best of all, the designers took their inspiration from other famous Chicago buildings, ensuring the whole structure fits in perfectly with its surroundings.

34. BEINECKERARE BOOK LIBRARY IN YALE UNIVERSITY // USA

Images courtesy of Henry Trotter and Lauren Manning.

From the outside, this windowless monstrosity really isn’t much to look at, but the interior of this Yale library is quite impressive and undeniably unique with its beautiful marble walls. The library is now the largest building in the world designed exclusively for the protection of rare books and manuscripts. And it has quite the collection to protect, as the building is home to one of 48 known copies of the Gutenberg Bible, ancient papyri, rare maps, medieval manuscripts, early American newspapers and more.

35. JOSÉ VASCONCELOS LIBRARY // MEXICO

Images courtesy of CliNKer's and vladimix's Flickr streams.

Nicknamed the “megalibrary” by the Mexican press, this giant library takes up a whopping 409,000 square feet, making it large enough to dwarf the painted gray whale skeleton displayed inside the main hallway. Outside of the library is an impressive botanical garden that protects the building from the loud city streets, providing a moat for this castle of knowledge. Inside, over 500,000 books are displayed on glass shelves hanging from the five stories of the building. The end result is as striking as it is stunning.

36. PALAFOXIANA LIBRARY //MEXICO

Images courtesy of Carlos Enrique Lopez C's and David Cabrera's Flickr streams.

Established in 1646, this Puebla library was the first public library in Mexico; some even argue that it was the first library in the Americas. It is now listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register and its 41,000 books and manuscripts include an array of rare and antique titles.

37. THE ARMSTRONG-BROWNING LIBRARY AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY // USA

Image courtesy of Texas Tongs' Flickr stream.

Philanthropist Dr. A.J. Armstrong wanted to create the “most beautiful building in Texas,” and the end result was this 3-story, Italian Renaissance-styled masterpiece adorned with 62 stained glass windows, massive marble columns and intricate ceiling designs. Armstrong justified the expense by pointing out that the “compelling beauty” of the building might be able to inspire someone enough that "if we by that means give the world another Dante, another Shakespeare, another Browning, we shall count the cost a bargain."

38. MORGAN LIBRARY // USA

Image courtesy of Rob Shenk's Flickr stream.

Constructed in 1906, this amazing New York landmark was originally built as the personal library and museum space for financier Pierpont Morgan’s impressive collection of rare books, manuscripts, drawings, artifacts and prints. After Pierpont’s death, his grandson, J.P. Morgan, Jr., opened the library to the public in 1924.

39. BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY // USA

Image courtesy of koalie's Flickr stream.

Talk about old school: The Boston Public library, established in 1848, was the first municipal library in all of the U.S. Its first location was a small Massachusetts schoolhouse, but it had to expand almost immediately. In 1895, the current building, called a “palace for the people” by architect Charles Follen McKim, was completed in Copley Square. In 1972, the building was expanded, and it now contains over 8.9 million books, a number of rare manuscripts, maps, musical scores, and prints. It even has first edition folios from Shakespeare and original music scores by Mozart.

40. BRADDOCK CARNEGIE LIBRARY // USA

Image courtesy of macwagen's Flickr stream.

The first Carnegie library in the U.S., this library was designed in an eclectic medieval style by William Halsey Wood and opened in Pennsylvania in 1889. Only five years later, it received a Romanesque-styled addition, doubling the size of the building. At the time, it featured a variety of entertainment options, including billiards tables on the first floor, a music hall, a gymnasium, and a swimming pool. Additionally, it held a bathhouse in the basement so mill workers could take a shower before accessing the facilities. These days, the bathhouse is a pottery studio, but the tiled floors and walls remain.

41. INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC LIBRARY // USA

Image courtesy of sergemelki's Flickr stream.

This Indiana library manages to balance old and new influences in a refreshingly unique manner. The original building, completed in 1917, is located in the front of the complex, while a massive, modernized addition from 2007 sits in the background. The first building was designed in the Greek Doric style and is often called one of the most outstanding architectural libraries in the U.S. The addition is just about as modern as can be, with glass and wood paneling throughout the building, and the 6-story, 293,000 square foot tower provides even more space for books and reading rooms.

42. LOS ANGELES CENTRAL LIBRARY //USA

Image courtesy of hollywoodsmile78's Flickr stream.

Like the Indianapolis Public Library, the Central Library of Los Angeles features a striking balance between old and new architecture. The original library building was completed in 1926 and featured influences from ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean Revival architecture, including pyramids and mosaics. A 1993 renovation added a new wing with Modernist and Beaux-Arts influences, including an eight story atrium and more storage space for the museum’s ever-growing collection. These days, the library is the third largest public library in the U.S. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

43. HEARST CASTL GOTHIC STUDY // USA

Image courtesy of Stuck in Customs' Flickr stream.

Hearst Castle is one of the most famous buildings in California, but most tour groups miss the opportunity to explore the second story of the building, which includes a massive guest library and a cozier gothic library and study. This room also played a vital role in Hearst’s life, as the mogul preferred to use this room as his executive board room, doing business here whenever possible, .

44. Skywalker Ranch Library, USA

Image courtesy of Michael Heilemann's Flickr stream.

If you ever happen to get access to California's Skywalker Ranch, make sure you get a chance to look at the library, which is crowned with a 40-foot stained glass dome that allows employees and guests of Lucas Studios to enjoy their reading in natural light.

45. SUZZALLO LIBRARY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON // USA

Image courtesy of Curtis Cronn's Flickr stream.

This Collegiate Gothic building was completed in 1923 and among its many impressive details are 18 terra-cotta figures set atop the buttresses featuring academic heroes such as Louis Pasteur, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Darwin, and more. Inside, a series of shields depict the coats of arms from many top universities around the world, including Yale, Oxford, Stanford and Uppsala. While the library is home to many rare volumes, the most famous item in its collection is one of the world’s largest, a photo book of Bhutan by Michael Hawley. Library staff turn the pages about once a month so interested viewers can slowly enjoy the entire work from front to back—assuming they visit regularly.

46. FISHER FINE ARTS LIBRARY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA // USA

Image courtesy of jeffhartge's Flickr stream.

In 1888, most architects were focused on Romanesque styles built with marble and granite. But this library’s architect, Frank Furness, wanted the building to reflect the architectural style of Philadelphia’s many red brick factories. Throughout the following years it received a number of additions and alterations and finally, in 1962, most of the school’s collection was moved to a new location and the former main building became the home to the fine arts library.

47. DAVID SASSOON LIBRARY // INDIA

Images courtesy of Flickr users bookchen andCarol Mitchell.

Completed in 1870, the David Sassoon Library is one of only 145 monuments protected by India’s government, and the oldest library in Mumbai. One of its most famous features is the beautiful garden in the back—a rare sight in the commercial area in which it is located.The library and reading room were originally intended to be an entire institute dedicated to mechanics, science and technology, but funding ran short. The Sassoon Mechanic’s Institute was renamed the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room after its primary donor.

48. RAZA LIBRARY // INDIA

The Raza Library in Rampur was completed in 1904, and was once part of a palace. While many of the royal family’s other properties have been left to crumble, the library is still protected by the Indian government—another one of the country’s few protected monuments. The royal family started gathering works for the library way back in 1774. Included in their collection are 17,000 rare manuscripts, 205 hand-written palm leaves and 5000 miniature paintings.

49. THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CHINA // CHINA

Image courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Deng

If you’re looking for info on China’s ancient history, the National Library of China’s old buildings might be a good place to start. They serve as the home to a vast array of historical and ancient books and manuscripts—even inscribed tortoise shells. And though the buildings themselves are designed in a traditional Chinese style, they were only completed in 1987.

50. The TIANYI PAVILION LIBRARY // CHINA

Images courtesy of What's On Ningbo.

If you're looking for real traditional Chinese architecture, you’ll need to leave Beijing and head over to Ningbo City—home to the oldest private library in Asia. Built in 1560 by a retired imperial minister, Tianyi Pavilion Library is the third oldest private library in the world. As you might expect, the collection is rather impressive: 300,000 ancient books, including a number of woodcut and handwritten titles.

51. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF BHUTAN // BHUTAN

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Christopher J. Flynn.

Completed in 1984, the National Library of Bhutan is also technically a Buddhist temple, and the structure is intended to integrate the three aspects of Buddha and his teachings: the physical represented by statues and paintings, the speech represented by books and printing blocks, and the heart represented by the eight small bowls found on the shrine on the first floor. The library is home to about 6100 Tibetan and Bhutanese books, manuscripts and xylographs, and about 9000 printing boards and wood printing blocks. While the collection isn’t massive, it is one of the largest collections of Buddhist literature in the world.

52. GRAND PEOPLE’S STUDY HOUSE // NORTH KOREA

Images courtesy of Flickr usersJohn Pavelka andgadgetdan.

The Study House was completed 1982 in honor of Kim Il-Sung’s 70th birthday and features an amazing 600 rooms with capacity for 30 million books. Of course, being housed in North Korea, foreign publications are only available with special permission, so it will probably be a while before all the shelves are full.

53. NAKANOSHIMA LIBRARY // JAPAN

Image courtesy Flickr users hetgallery of and muzina_shanghai.

This Neo-Baroque design might not be something you’d immediately associate with Japan, but the 1904 Nakanoshima Library actually fits in quite well in Osaka, as the area has quite a few other stone-walled buildings with similar architecture. This building, complete with a copper roof dome (not visible in the exterior image above), is certainly one of the most stunning.

54. BEITOU LIBRARY // TAIWAN

Images courtesy of Flickr user JAQ's PhotoStorage.

While this attractive building might not be the most beautiful one on this list, it is undeniably the most eco-friendly and the most modern. The slanted roof collects moisture from humidity and rain, and then recycles it for the restrooms and gardens. The Beitou Library has also been fitted with solar panels and deep-set and latticed windows to reduce energy use.

55. VICTORIAN STATE LIBRARY // AUSTRALIA

Images courtesy of Wikipedia users Bjenks and Diliff

This library was first opened in 1856 with a collection of 3,800 books, and the famous domed reading room was opened in 1913. While the dome’s skylights were covered with copper sheets in 1959 due to water leakage, they have since been renovated, allowing beautiful natural light to once again fill the reading room. This library is not only massive – containing over 2 million books – it also has some fantastic rarities, including the diaries of the city’s founders, folios of Captain James Cook, and the armor of famed outlaw Ned Kelly.

56. THE STATE LIBRARY OF NEW WALES // AUSTRALIA

Image courtesy of Flickr user Christopher Chan

The oldest library in all of Australia, the State Library started as the Australian Subscription Library in 1826, and the current building was built in 1845. The most famous, and most stunning, part of the library is the Mitchell Wing, which was completed in 1910. The wing was named for David Scott Mitchell who had a fantastic collection of older books, including original journals of James Cook. The library now houses over 5 million items, including 2 million books and 1.1 million photographs.

57. THE STATE LIBRARY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Images courtesy of Flickr users OZinOH and gracias!

The State Library of South Australia is not as large as some of the other Australian State libraries, but it does have the distinction of having the largest collection dating from pre-European times in its South Australiana collection. This collection is mostly contained within the Mortlock Wing, the oldest and most gorgeous part of the library. Opened in 1884, the building originally held 23,000 books and employed three librarians. Since then, the collection has expanded so much that two massive buildings had to be added to the library, although the Mortlock Wing remains the most visually impressive.

58. VICTORIAN PARLIAMNTARY LIBRRY // AUSTRALIA

Images courtesy of Flickr user Sally Cummings

The Parliament House was built in stages, starting in 1855, and the library was one of the first things completed after the Legislative Assembly and Council. While construction continued all the way through 1929, the building’s Roman Revival design is fluent and smooth, so the whole thing seems like one single entity rather than a series of extra wings tagged on throughout the years

59. BARR SMITH LIBRARY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE // AUSTRALIA

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user pdfpdf

In 1927, the last heir to a prominent philanthropic Australian family offered £20,000 to the University of Adelaide for a new library, on the condition that it be named after his father, Robert Barr Smith. The red brick library was completed in 1932, complete with two friezes commemorating the donations of the Barr Smiths. Since the collection expanded quite quickly, addition after addition had to be added. These days, the library holds over two million volumes and now spans over almost 21,000 square meters.

60. UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO CENTRAL LIBRARY // NEW ZEALAND

Image courtesy of Flickr user petahopkins

There are ten different libraries at the University of Otago, and when it comes to looks and impressive collections, the Central Library stands above the rest, with its gorgeous, modern architecture that lets in ample natural light and its Special Collection containing over 9000 books printed before 1801. The library offers over 2000 study spaces for students and over 500,000 books, periodicals and microfilms.

61. THE GEORGE FORBES MEMORIAL LIBRARY AT LINCOLN UNIVERSITY // NEW ZEALAND

Lincoln University isn’t huge, nor is the George Forbes Memorial Library located at the heart of campus inside Ivey Hall, but what they lack in size they make up for in beauty. Ivey Hall was opened in 1880, and while the library was originally opened in the George Forbes Memorial Building in 1960, it was moved into Ivey Hall in 1988 after the building underwent a major refurbishment.

62. TUGGERANONG LIBRARY // AUSTRALIA

Image courtesy of Flickr user longreach

Lake Tuggeranong is a man-made body of water created by a dam in 1987. As a result, the suburban town built around the lake is equally new, but with the lovely scenery, it’s no wonder that the local architecture is a step above typical suburban towns. The Tuggeranong Town Center Library is no exception and is, in fact, one of the most picturesque buildings in town—particularly when viewed from the water where you can see its reflection. While it might not be particularly old or have an impressive collection of rare books, with a view like this, it certainly deserves its place on this list.

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Animals
15 Incredible Facts About Pigeons
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Though they're often described as "rats with wings" (a phrase popularized by the movie Stardust Memories), pigeons are actually pretty cool. From homing instincts to misleading rump feathers, here are 15 things you might not know about these avian adventurers.

1. THEY MIGHT BE THE FIRST DOMESTICATED BIRD.

The common city pigeon (Columba livia), also known as the rock pigeon, might be the first bird humankind ever domesticated. You can see them in art dating back as far as 4500 BCE in modern Iraq, and they've been a valuable source of food for thousands of years.

2. THEY WON OVER CHARLES DARWIN—AND NIKOLA TESLA.

Pigeon-breeding was a common hobby in Victorian England for everyone from well-off businessmen to average Joes, leading to some fantastically weird birds. Few hobbyists had more enthusiasm for the breeding process than Charles Darwin, who owned a diverse flock, joined London pigeon clubs, and hobnobbed with famous breeders. Darwin's passion for the birds influenced his 1868 book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, which has not one but two chapters about pigeons (dogs and cats share a single chapter).

Nikola Tesla was another great mind who enjoyed pigeons. He used to care for injured wild pigeons in his New York City hotel room. Hands down, Tesla's favorite was a white female—about whom he once said, "I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman and she loved me. When she was ill, I knew and understood; she came to my room and I stayed beside her for days. I nursed her back to health. That pigeon was the joy of my life. If she needed me, nothing else mattered. As long as I had her, there was a purpose in my life." Reportedly, he was inconsolable after she died.

3. THEY UNDERSTAND SPACE AND TIME.

In a 2017 Current Biology study, researchers showed captive pigeons a series of digital lines on a computer screen for either two or eight seconds. Some lines were short, measuring about 2.3 inches across; others were four times longer. The pigeons were trained to evaluate either the length of the line or how long it was displayed. They found that the more time a line was displayed, the longer in length the pigeon judged it to be. The reverse was true too: If the pigeons encountered a longer line, they thought it existed in time for a greater duration. Pigeons, the scientists concluded, understand the concepts of both time and space; the researchers noted "similar results have been found with humans and other primates."

It's thought that humans process those concepts with a brain region called the parietal cortex; pigeon brains lack that cortex, so they must have a different way of judging space and time.

4. THEY CAN FIND THEIR WAY BACK TO THE NEST FROM 1300 MILES AWAY.

A pigeon flying in front of trees.
iStock

The birds can do this even if they've been transported in isolation—with no visual, olfactory, or magnetic clues—while scientists rotate their cages so they don't know what direction they're traveling in. How they do this is a mystery, but people have been exploiting the pigeon's navigational skills since at least 3000 BCE, when ancient peoples would set caged pigeons free and follow them to nearby land.

Their navigational skills also make pigeons great long-distance messengers. Sports fans in ancient Greece are said to have used trained pigeons to carry the results of the Ancient Olympics. Further east, Genghis Khan stayed in touch with his allies and enemies alike through a pigeon-based postal network.

5. THEY SAVED THOUSANDS OF HUMAN LIVES DURING WORLD WARS I AND II.

Pigeons' homing talents continued to shape history during the 20th century. In both World Wars, rival nations had huge flocks of pigeon messengers. (America alone had 200,000 at its disposal in WWII.) By delivering critical updates, the avians saved thousands of human lives. One racing bird named Cher Ami completed a mission that led to the rescue of 194 stranded U.S. soldiers on October 4, 1918.

6. TWO PIGEONS ALMOST DISTRACTED FROM THE DISCOVERY OF EVIDENCE OF THE BIG BANG.

In 1964, scientists in Holmdel, New Jersey, heard hissing noises from their antenna that would later prove to be signals from the Big Bang. But when they first heard the sound, they thought it might be, among other things, the poop of two pigeons that were living in the antenna. "We took the pigeons, put them in a box, and mailed them as far away as we could in the company mail to a guy who fancied pigeons," one of the scientists later recalled. "He looked at them and said these are junk pigeons and let them go and before long they were right back." But the scientists were able to clean out the antenna and determine that they had not been the cause of the noise. The trap used to catch the birds (before they had to later be, uh, permanently removed) is on view at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

7. YOU CAN TRAIN THEM TO BE ART SNOBS …

Japanese psychologist Shigeru Watanabe and two colleagues earned an Ig Nobel Prize in 1995 for training pigeons, in a lab setting, to recognize the paintings of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso and to distinguish between the painters. The pigeons were even able to use their knowledge of impressionism and cubism to identify paintings of other artists in those movements. Later, Watanabe taught other pigeons to distinguish watercolor images from pastels. And in a 2009 experiment, captive pigeons he'd borrowed were shown almost two dozen paintings made by students at a Tokyo elementary school, and were taught which ones were considered "good" and which ones were considered "bad." He then presented them with 10 new paintings and the avian critics managed to correctly guess which ones had earned bad grades from the school's teacher and a panel of adults. Watanabe's findings indicate that wild pigeons naturally categorize things on the basis of color, texture, and general appearance.

8. … AND TO DISTINGUISH WRITTEN WORDS.

In a 2016 study, scientists showed that pigeons can differentiate between strings of letters and actual words. Four of the birds built up a vocabulary of between 26 and 58 written English words, and though the birds couldn't actually read them, they could identify visual patterns and therefore tell them apart. The birds could even identify words they hadn't seen before.

9. FLUFFY PIGEON FEET MIGHT ACTUALLY BE PARTIAL WINGS.

A white pigeon with curly feathers and fluffy feet.
iStock

A few pigeon breeds have fuzzy legs—which hobbyists call "muffs"—rather than scaly ones. According to a 2016 study, the DNA of these fluffy-footed pigeons leads their hind legs to take on some forelimb characteristics, making muffed pigeon legs look distinctly wing-like; they're also big-boned. Not only do they have feathers, but the hindlimbs are somewhat big-boned, too. According to biologist Mike Shapiro, who led the study, "pigeons' fancy feathered feet are partially wings."

10. SOME PIGEONS DISTRACT FALCONS WITH WHITE RUMP FEATHERS.

In a life-or-death situation, a pigeon's survival could depend upon its color pattern: Research has shown that wild falcons rarely go after pigeons that have a white patch of feathers just above the tail, and when the predators do target these birds, the attacks are rarely successful.

To figure out why this is, Ph.D. student Alberto Palleroni and a team tagged 5235 pigeons in the vicinity of Davis, California. Then, they monitored 1485 falcon-on-pigeon attacks over a seven-year span. The researchers found that although white-rumped pigeons comprised 20 to 25 percent of the area's pigeon population, they represented less than 2 percent of all the observed pigeons that were killed by falcons; the vast majority of the victims had blue rumps. Palleroni and his team rounded up 756 white- and blue-rumped pigeons and swapped their rump feathers by clipping and pasting white feathers on blue rumps, and vice versa. The falcons had a much easier time spotting and catching the newly blue-rumped pigeons, while the pigeons that received the white feathers saw predation rates plummet.

Close observation revealed that the white patches distract birds of prey. In the wild, falcons dive-bomb other winged animals from above at high speeds. Some pigeons respond by rolling away in midair, and on a spiraling bird, white rump feathers can be eye-catching, which means that a patch of them may divert a hungry raptor's focus long enough to make the carnivore miscalculate and zip right past its intended victim.

11. DODOS WERE RELATED TO TODAY'S PIGEONS.

Two blue and green Nicobar pigeons.
iStock

Though most of this list focuses on the rock pigeon, there are 308 living species of pigeons and doves. Together, they make up an order of birds known as the columbiformes. The extinct dodo belonged to this group as well.

Flightless and (somewhat) docile, dodos once inhabited Mauritius, an island near Madagascar. The species had no natural predators, but when human sailors arrived with rats, dogs, cats, and pigs, it began to die out, and before the 17th century came to a close, the dodo had vanished altogether. DNA testing has confirmed that pigeons are closely related to the dodo, and the vibrant Nicobar pigeon (above) is its nearest genetic relative. A multi-colored bird with iridescent feathers, this near-threatened creature is found on small islands in the South Pacific and off Asia. Unlike the dodo, it can fly.

12. AT ONE POINT, MORE THAN ONE-QUARTER OF ALL THE BIRDS LIVING IN THE U.S. MAY HAVE BEEN PASSENGER PIGEONS.

Wild/feral rock pigeons reside in all 50 states, which makes it easy to forget that they're invasive birds. Originally native to Eurasia and northern Africa, the species was (most likely) introduced to North America by French settlers in 1606. At the time, a different kind of columbiform—this one indigenous—was already thriving there: the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). As many as 5 billion of them were living in America when England, Spain, and France first started colonizing, and they may have once represented anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the total U.S. bird population. But by the early 20th century, they had become a rare sight, thanks to overhunting, habitat loss, and a possible genetic diversity issue. The last known passenger pigeon—a captive female named Martha—died on September 1, 1914.

13. THEY'RE REALLY GOOD AT MULTITASKING.

According to one study, they're more efficient multitaskers than people are. Scientists at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum put together a test group of 15 humans and 12 pigeons and trained all of them to complete two simple jobs (like pressing a keyboard once a light bulb came on). They were also put in situations wherein they'd need to stop working on one job and switch over to another. In some trials, the participants had to make the change immediately. During these test runs, humans and pigeons switched between jobs at the same speed.

But in other trials, the test subjects were allowed to complete one assignment and then had to wait 300 milliseconds before moving on to the next job. Interestingly, in these runs, the pigeons were quicker to get started on that second task after the period ended. In the avian brain, nerve cells are more densely packed, which might enable our feathered friends to process information faster than we can under the right circumstances.

14. PIGEONS PRODUCE FAKE "MILK."

Only mammals produce genuine milk, but pigeons and doves (along with some other species of birds) feed their young with something similar—a whitish liquid filled with nutrients, fats, antioxidants, and healthy proteins called "crop milk." Both male and female pigeons create the milk in the crop, a section of the esophagus designed to store food temporarily. As is the case with mammal milk, the creation of crop milk is regulated by the hormone prolactin. Newly-hatched pigeons drink crop milk until they're weaned off it after four weeks or so. (And if you've ever asked yourself, "Where are all the baby pigeons?" we have the answer for you right here.)

15. ONE STUDY SUGGESTS THAT, GIVEN THE RIGHT CONDITIONS, THEY'RE AS GOOD AT IDENTIFYING CANCER AS DOCTORS.

We've already established that pigeons are excellent at differentiating between artists and words, but a 2015 study revealed they can also distinguish between malignant and benign growths in the right conditions. Researchers at University of California Davis Medical Center put 16 pigeons in a room with magnified biopsies of potential breast cancers. If the pigeons correctly identified them as either benign or malignant, they got a treat, According to Scientific American.

"Once trained, the pigeons' average diagnostic accuracy reached an impressive 85 percent. But when a "flock sourcing" approach was taken, in which the most common answer among all subjects was used, group accuracy climbed to a staggering 99 percent, or what would be expected from a pathologist. The pigeons were also able to apply their knowledge to novel images, showing the findings weren't simply a result of rote memorization."

Mammograms proved to be more of a challenge, however; the birds could memorize signs of cancer in the images they were trained on but could not identify the signs in new images.

No matter how impressive their results, "I don't anticipate that pigeons, no matter how good they become at pathology or radiology, will be playing a role in actual patient care—certainly for the foreseeable future," study co-author Richard M. Levenson told Scientific American. "There are just too many regulatory barriers—at least in the West."

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John P. Johnson, HBO
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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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