Best of America

The Most Impressive Libraries in Every State

From Utah’s ultra-modern Salt Lake City Public Library to Maryland’s 19th-century George Peabody Library, all of these libraries boast unique architectural achievements and grand collections.

Alabama: The Ralph Brown Draughon Library

Christopher Warren/Flickr

The Ralph Brown Draughon Library Auburn University is named after the university’s honorable former president, Ralph Brown Draughon, who led the school from 1947 to 1965. (Here are 13 things librarians really wish you knew.)

Alaska: The Juneau Memorial Library

Flickr/Bernt Rostad

The Juneau Memorial Library hosted the July 4, 1959 Statehood Ceremony where the 49-star flag was first flown in Alaska and still flies today.

Arizona: The Arabian Public Library

Ellen Forsyth/Flickr

The Arabian Public Library in Scottsdale won the 2009 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its innovative desert artistry.

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Arkansas: Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library

Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, Little Rock

The Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library has been awarded for its ecological design and low carbon footprint. (Every adult could be inspired by these quotes from classic children's books.)

California: UC Berkeley Library system

Melfoody/Flickr

By number of volumes, the UC Berkeley Library system has the fourth-largest university collection in America.

Colorado: The Denver Public Library

Rob!/Flickr

The Denver Public Library was partially designed by the renowned, postmodern architect Michael Graves.

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Connecticut: The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Laura Manning/Flickr

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University recently underwent a 16-month renovation, which added modern amenities but fully preserved the original, six-story glass stack tower.

Delaware: The Wilmington Public Library

Courtesy Wilmington Public Library

The Wilmington Public Library is a historic landmark that has been standing since the 18th century. Here's the most iconic book set in every state.

Florida: Gulf Gate Library

Photo courtesy of Sarasota County Government

The grand opening of new Gulf Gate Library in Sarasota, Florida took place in January 2015.

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Georgia: The Russell Library for Political Science

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies

The Russell Library for Political Science at the University of Georgia is distinguished as a charter member of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress.

Hawaii: Hawaii State Library

Paul H. Mark, HSPLS

Hawaii State Library, known for its beautiful Greco-Roman style architecture, is the flagship library of the only statewide library system in the nation.

Idaho: The Carnegie Library

Roadsidepictures/Flickr

The Carnegie Library was founded by a group of women called the Women’s Columbian Club. It became Boise’s first public library upon opening in 1905.

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Illinois: The Chicago Public Library

iStock/James Anderson

The Chicago Public Library is one of 80 branches within Chicago’s public library system.

Indiana: The Theodore Hesburgh Library

Sarah Murray/Flickr

The Theodore Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame features a mural commonly referred to as “Touchdown Jesus” for it’s location directly behind Notre Dame’s football stadium’s north end zone.

Iowa: The Iowa State Law Library

Jason Mrachina/Flickr

The Iowa State Law Library is located in the Capitol building in Des Moines.

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Kansas: The Lawrence Public Library

Courtesy Heather Kearns, Lawrence Public Library

The Lawrence Public Library won a 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its sleek design.

Kentucky: The Main Library of the Louisville Library System

Katie/Flickr

The Main Library of the Louisville Library System was constructed in 1906 thanks to the generosity of steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.

Louisiana: The Shreve Memorial Library

Courtesy Caleb Sheaffer/Shreve Memorial Library

The Shreve Memorial Library is located in a former courthouse and U.S. post office.

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Maine: Bangor Public Library

Garrett Fitzgerald/Flickr

A new copper dome was added to the Bangor Public Library in October of 2013.

Maryland: The George Peabody Library

Robert Burakiewicz/Flickr

The George Peabody Library in Mt. Vernon serves The Johns Hopkins University and is considered one of the most stunning libraries in the world.

Massachusetts: The Boston Public Library

Miguel Vieira/Flickr

The Boston Public Library is also known as the “Library for the Commonwealth” and is the third-largest public library in the United States.

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Michigan: The University of Michigan Law Library

Mike Boening Photography/Flickr

The University of Michigan Law Library controversially collaborated with Google for a book digitalization program. (Here are 5 times when print is better than digital.)

Minnesota: The Minneapolis Central Library

Drew Geraets/Flickr

The Minneapolis Central Library won the 2009 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.

Mississippi: The Jackson District Library

Courtesy Jackson District Library

The Jackson District Library has roots tracing back to 1863, when the Young Men’s Association was formed. When the library opened in 1865, it only had 239 donated books.

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Missouri: St. Louis Public Library

Chris Yunker/Flickr

The AIA gave the St. Louis Public Library a National Honor Award for its breathtaking restoration in 2014.

Montana: The Hearst Free Library

Eric Chan/Flickr

The Hearst Free Library has preserved its stunning turn of the century interior design, full of dark mahogany and velvet upholstery.

Nebraska: The Don L. Love Memorial Library

Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries

The Don L. Love Memorial Library at the University of Nebraska houses the social science and humanities portion of the university’s 3.5 million volumes.

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Nevada: The Prim Library

Courtesy of Sierra Nevada College

The Prim Library at Sierra Nevada College has a rustic, cozy, and cabin-like ambiance.

New Hampshire: The Phillips Exeter Academy Library

Pablo Sanchez/Flickr

The Phillips Exeter Academy Library has been repeatedly awarded for its modern design.

New Jersey: The Firestone Library

Kah-Wai Lin/Flickr

The Firestone Library at Princeton University has more books per enrolled student than any other university in America.

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New Mexico: The Farmington Public Library

Courtesy Patrick Coulie/Farmington Public Library

The North Dakota State Library has moved a number of times since it first opened in 1907, but today it resides in the capital city of Bismark.

New York: The New York City Public Library

Andrew E. Larsen/Flickr

The New York City Public Library has the second-largest literary collection in the United States, surpassed only by the Library of Congress.

North Carolina: The Wilson Library

William Yeung/Flickr

The Wilson Library at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill finished its original construction in 1929.

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North Dakota: The North Dakota State Library

Carrie Scarr/Flickr

The North Dakota State Library has moved a number of times since it first opened in 1907, but today it resides in the capital city of Bismark.

Ohio: The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library

Photo by Brad Feinknopf/Feinknopf Photography

The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library at Ohio State University won the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.

Oklahoma: The Bizzell Memorial Library

Sage Ross/Flickr

The Bizzell Memorial Library at Oklahoma University is a gorgeous brick, columned building with an imposing clock tower.

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Oregon: The Millar Library

A.Davey/Flickr

The Millar Library at Portland State University doubled in size in 1991.

Pennsylvania: The Free Library of Philadelphia

Dan Kleinman/Flickr

The Free Library of Philadelphia has one of the greatest rare books departments. It has objects including the raven that inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s poem.

Rhode Island: The Providence Athenaeum

Will Hart/Flickr

The Providence Athenaeum at Brown University was founded in 1753, making it the fourth-oldest library in America.

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South Carolina: The Thomas Cooper Library

brcox22/Flickr

The Thomas Cooper Library at University of South Carolina overlooks a large pond, allowing its reflection to brightly glow by night.

South Dakota: The Hilton M. Briggs Library

Photo courtesy of South Dakota State University

The Hilton M. Briggs Library at University of South Dakota features stunning, floor-to-ceiling windows so that students may read and study by natural light.

Tennessee: Nashville Public Library

Denise Mattox/Flickr

The Nashville Public Library has been hosting its popular Children's Story Hour every week since the event started in 1905!

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Texas: The Texas State Library

Texas State Library and Archives Commission/Flickr

The Texas State Library—originally called the National Library of the Republic of Texas— existed before Texas was officially annexed to the United States in 1848!

Utah: The Salt Lake City Public Library

Ellen Forsyth/Flickr

The Salt Lake City Public Library is a futuristic development that won Library Journal’s ‘Library of the Year Award’ in 2006.

Vermont: St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and Public Library

J. Stephen Conn/Flickr

St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and Public Library is also the location of one of the United State’s oldest, unaltered art galleries.

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Virginia: The Slover Public Library

Michael Tefft/Flickr

The Slover Public Library won the 2015 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.

Washington: Western Washington University’s Library

Jasperdo/Flickr

Western Washington University’s Library is located in the picturesque, quaint and forested town of Bellingham.

West Virginia: West Virginia University’s Downtown Library

Paula Cristina/Flickr

West Virginia University’s Downtown Library is one of eight branches in the WVU library system.

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Wisconsin: Milwaukee Public Library

Richie Diesterheft/Flickr

In 1878, a national competition was held to pick a design for the building of the Milwaukee Public Library. Seventy-four entries were received, including an entry from Frank Lloyd Wright, who sadly was not selected.

Wyoming: Huff Memorial Library

Acroterion/Wikimedia Commons

Huff Memorial Library perfectly compliments the surroundings of Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains.


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