It would be easy to dismiss college libraries as outmoded—the building equivalent of landlines, encyclopedias and everything else contemporary technology has rendered obsolete. But libraries aren’t obsolete. They are far from it.
Even before the Internet removed the need to comb a university’s stacks in search of a specific text or scrap of source material, few students went to the campus library to conduct research. Most went because, when a looming exam or paper required some focused cramming, the quiet, well-lit, communal environment at the campus library helped them buckle down and take care of business. That hasn’t changed.
It also helps that the design of most of these libraries is insanely cool. Here are nine campus libraries in America you should find an excuse to visit.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN’S LAW LIBRARY
The million-volume research sections of Michigan’s Law Library are impressive on their own. But it’s the library’s neogothic “reading room” with its 50-foot ceilings and stained glass windows that makes the building so unique.
YALE UNIVERSITY’S BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
One of the largest libraries in the world devoted entirely to rare books and texts, Beinecke is also an architectural marvel with exposed book stacks that resemble restaurant wine towers.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO’S MANSUETO LIBRARY
An elliptical glass half-dome crowns this gem of a library, which descends five stories beneath the ground and has the capacity to hold 3.5 million volumes. Log on to the library’s system and request a book, and the building’s underground “storage and retrieval mechanism” employs five 50-foot cranes to fetch book bins for staff members. Feel free to nerd out about this.
THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S FISHER FINE ARTS LIBRARY
While it once served as Penn’s principal library, Fisher now houses the university’s fine arts collections. That’s appropriate, because the building is itself a piece of fine art, and a National Historic Landmark.
LEHIGH UNIVERSITY’S LINDERMAN LIBRARY
Known as “Lindy” to students, Linderman’s stained-glass rotunda and arch-ceilinged “grand reading room” are imposing spectacles.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO GEISEL LIBRARY
Named after Theodore Geisel, a.k.a., Dr. Seuss, the library resembles a tiered treehouse made of concrete and glass. It affords near-360-degree views of UCSD’s campus.
CORNELL UNIVERSITY’S URIS LIBRARY
Step inside the stacks of the Uris Library, and it’s possible to imagine the whole building is actually constructed of books. Somehow, its medal ornamentation and segmented architecture manage to feel bright and airy.
THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON’S SUZZALLO LIBRARY
The central library of UW’s campus, the Suzzallo was built in 1861—less than a decade after the U.S. Government’s creation of the Washington Territory. It’s stunning, soaring architecture make the library look as though it was yanked from the pages of a Harry Potter book.
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY’S KLARCHEK INFORMATION COMMONS
A gleaming wall of glass pushed right up against the shores of Lake Michigan serves as one wall of this beautiful, light-filled library. For architecture wonks, the building is also LEED certified for efficiency.