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Take a Look Inside Mexico City's Massive, Gorgeous Library

Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City is gigantic. The gorgeous structure, which covers 38,000 square meters (that's over 400,000 square feet), holds more than 470,000 books

Designed by Alberto Kalach, the "megalibrary" features transparent walls, hive-like bookshelves, and mismatched floors. Visitors can take in a massive white whale skeleton covered in graphite rings by artist Gabriel Orozco. Outside, there's a garden boasting lush flowers and greenery. 

The giant library, which took three years to build, is actually five libraries melded into one, with each section dedicated to some of Mexico's greatest thinkers: Ali Chumacero, Carlos Monsiváis, José Luis Martínez, Jaime García Terrés, and Antonio Castro Leal. The concept for each library was developed by a different design team, who were asked to pay homage to the materials the specific space contains. 

It's hard not to feel miniscule when walking through this unusual, massive structure. Visiting Mexico City? You may want to devote several hours—or even a full day, if you can—to browsing its vast collection. 

Mark Hogan, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Mark Hogan, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

LWYang, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

[h/t: LostatEMinor.com, AtlasObscura.com]

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Animals
These Mobile Libraries Roaming Zimbabwe Are Pulled By Donkeys
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The people behind the Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program (RLRDP) believe you shouldn’t have to travel far to access good reading material. That’s why they have donkeys do a lot of the traveling for the people they help. According to inhabitat, RLRDP manages 15 donkey-powered library carts that deliver books to communities without libraries of their own.

The organization was founded in 1990 with the mission of bringing libraries to rural parts of Zimbabwe. Five years later, they started hitching up donkeys to carts packed with books. Each mobile library can hold about 1200 titles, and 12 of the 15 carts are filled exclusively with books for kids. The donkeys can transport more than just paperbacks: Each two-wheeled cart has space for a few riders, and three of them are outfitted with solar panels that power onboard computers. While browsing the internet or printing documents, visitors to the library can use the solar energy to charge their phones.

Donkeys pulling a cart

Carts usually spend a day in the villages they serve, and that short amount of time is enough to make a lasting impact. RLRDP founder Dr. Obadiah Moyo wrote in a blog post, “The children explore the books, sharing what they’ve read, and local storytellers from the community come to bring stories to life. It really is a day to spread the concept of reading and to develop the reading culture we are all working towards.”

Kids getting books from a cart.

About 1600 individuals benefit from each cart, and Moyo says schools in the areas they visit see improvement in students. The donkey-pulled libraries are only part of what RLRDP does: The organization also trains rural librarians, installs computers in places without them, and delivers books around Zimbabwe via bicycle—but the pack animals are hard to top. Moyo writes, “When the cart is approaching a school, the excitement from the children is wonderful to see as they rush out to greet it.”

[h/t inhabitat]

All images courtesy of Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program

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26 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Libraries
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Before he became a bestselling author, John Green worked for the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine for six years. Now, the novelist and Mental Floss YouTube host is returning to the stacks once more, delivering bibliophiles over two dozen trivia bits about the free repositories of knowledge.

Since Clearchus—the ancient Greek ruler and student of the philosopher Plato—founded the first-known public library around 364 BCE, readers from around the world have rifled through sacred Buddhist manuscripts in Bhutan’s unique temple library; felt equal parts awed and overwhelmed upon entering the Library of Congress; and paid homage to Morocco’s gatekeepers of knowledge by visiting the world’s oldest still-operating library in Fez, which was founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in 859 CE [PDF].

Learn more about these fascinating libraries—along with which famous children’s author was once a librarian, which president was guilty of having a library book that was 221 years overdue, which Francis Ford Coppola film may never have been made without a school librarian’s petition, and more—by watching the video above, or by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

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