There is no better time than Library Lovers Month to get out and explore some of the nation’s largest, most impressive libraries. Here are just a handful of the libraries that top the list according to the American Library Association:
The Library of Congress in Washington, DC is the nation’s oldest and largest library with millions of books, recordings, manuscripts and other artifacts in its collections. The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill transferring the seat of government to Washington. Originally, the library was solely for the use of Congress. With a collection of more than 144 million items, the Library is considered “an unparalleled world resource.” A variety of guided tours focusing on different themes are available to the public such as “Thomas Jefferson: The Man and His Ideas” tour or “Music and the Performing Arts at the Library of Congress” tour. Find visitors’ information at www.loc.gov/visit.
The Boston Public Library
in Boston, Massachusetts is another of the nation’s largest libraries. It was also the country’s first large, free, municipal library, founded in 1848. The library draws nearly four million visitors annually with its vast collection of books (8.9 million to be exact), manuscripts, maps and musical collections; you can even find the personal library of John Adams in the library’s rare book collection and First Edition folios by William Shakespeare. The library’s McKim Building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. As part of a guided tour, visitors can learn about the library’s architects, Charles Follen McKim and Philip Johnson. On March 8, 2012, the Central Library will host a lecture by James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winner in History for his book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
(1989). For more information about the library and to plan your visit, go to www.bpl.org.
Not far from the Boston Public Library is another noteworthy library – the Harvard University Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With more than 70 libraries combined into a single system, the Harvard University Library is the largest academic library worldwide. The current collection of nearly 70 million volumes is an outgrowth of the original 400 books given by John Harvard in 1638. Through March 17, 2012, students, faculty and visitors can enjoy the system’s Houghton Library exhibition Cabinets of Curiosity and Rooms of Wonder, a fascinating documentation of science intersecting with art; see how modern museums evolved from Renaissance European private collections of artifacts. Find more exhibitions and learn more about the library at http://hul.harvard.edu.
On the west coast, the University of California Berkeley’s library system joins the list. According to the American Library Association, the school’s libraries hold more than 11 million volumes – far from the meager collection of 1,000 books the school owned back in the 1800s. Ranked as the country’s top public research library, highlights include several reading rooms, a history gallery and an exhibit gallery. One of the system’s libraries, the Morrison Library, was originally built in 1928 as a traditional reading room and is one of the campus’ architectural treasures. For a unique look into the “birthplace of modern crime fiction,” visit the Doe Library’s exhibit Bullets Across the Bay: The San Francisco Bay Area in Crime Fiction, open through February 29, 2012. Check out the school’s entire library system yourself by visiting www.lib.berkeley.edu/index.html.
Whether you visit one of these well-known libraries or check a book out of your town’s local library, make a point to take advantage of all the wonderful resources that are right at your fingertips.