Book Nerds Will Love These Beautiful American Libraries
Where Are the Best Libraries in the US?
If there’s something that all book nerds share, it’s a love of libraries. I still dream of having a home library with a secret passageway -- and a bookshelf ladder on wheels. Since I haven’t yet purchased my “stately English manor," I get my library aesthetic fix with library tourism. Is there anything better than getting lost in a big old storybook fantasy library?
These days, you don’t have to be a scholar in the ivory tower to delve into a library’s magnificent resources. Many of the world’s finest libraries have incredible digital collections for you to explore!
So if you are looking for inspiration for your own cozy home library, want to feel like a scholar, or want to get lost down a “world class digital collections” rabbit hole, pay a visit to one of these amazing libraries.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Our library tourism begins at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. North Ave’s home library!
In 1895, Gilded Age philanthropist Andrew Carnegie endowed the library as a gift to the city. The Carnegie library system has nurtured subsequent generations of Pittsburgh bookworms. In fact, the Carnegie Library created the first public library Children’s Department in 1898. Soak up the stunning 19th century architecture as you explore the stacks!
The main branch of the Carnegie Library is part of a larger Carnegie museum “complex.” The Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Music Hall, and Carnegie Museum of Natural History are all within walking distance!
My favorite reading spot in the Carnegie Library (a cozy window seat in the stacks) actually overlooks the dinosaur hall at the Museum of Natural History!
Pay a visit to the Carnegie Library on your next visit to Pittsburgh. I think you’ll love it as much as I do.
While you’re there, pick up a candle from our Banned Books collection in the gift shop! You can purchase our Excavation Candle (a fantastic gift for dinosaur nerds) in the gift shop at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Garden & Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC
Museum and library lovers have infinite options in Washington, DC. Visitors could spend days in the Smithsonian or Library of Congress by themselves.
If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path (aka less crowded), pay a visit to Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Garden.
Located on 10 acres in the Georgetown neighborhood, Dumbarton Oaks offers a unique combination of artwork, architecture, and botanical beauty. You can enjoy the Byzantine artifacts in the museum and the extensive gardens designed by early 20th century female trailblazer Beatrix Farrand.
Be sure to visit the Rare Book Gallery and Reading Room. This stunning space will make you feel like a scholar and give you tons of aesthetic inspiration for your own home library.
If you find yourself on Capitol Hill during your visit to the nation’s capital, make time to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home of the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s first folios and a replica of an Elizabethan theater -- you can actually see plays! -- this library is a must-see for Shakespeare lovers.
Speaking of the Bard, check out our Shakespeare candle box set!
Morgan Library & New York Public Library, New York City
If you love that Renaissance palace aesthetic, visit the Morgan Library in New York City. Constructed by Gilded Age financier J. Pierpont Morgan, the library became a public institution in 1928.
The masterpiece of the Morgan Library complex, known simply as “The Library”, is built in grand and ornate style. Three stories of handcrafted walnut bookshelves rise thirty feet in the air. The space is full of artwork -- a sculpted marble mantelpiece, a 16th century tapestry, and beautiful stained glass. Beyond the three stories of bookshelves, you will see a stunning ceiling painted by H. Siddons Mobray. Many rare books are on display, including a Gutenberg Bible.
While in the Big Apple, library aficionados should stop by the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. Featured in several motion pictures, The Rose Main Reading Room is a must see.
William Rainey Harper Memorial Library, University of Chicago
Another must visit library for book nerds who love that “old school scholar vibe” or a “vintage library aesthetic.”
Dedicated in 1912, the William Rainey Harper Memorial Library is considered one of the most important buildings at the University of Chicago. The beautiful Gothic style towers took their inspiration from Cambridge and Oxford Universities.
The Reading Room at the Arley D. Cathy Learning Center is a fantasyland for library aficionados and history buffs. With its vaulted ceilings, abundant artwork, artifacts, and Gothic architecture, you’ll feel like you’re channeling Mary Shelley or Lord Byron.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
One of the preeminent research libraries in the United States, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is a treasure trove for book nerds. The library holds over a million books, manuscript pages, and papyri. Visitors can spy a Gutenberg Bible and a copy of Audubon's Birds of America.
If you love a library aesthetic, the library’s design will take your breath away. You’ll see a six story glass tower full of book stacks, windows made of translucent marble (to protect the precious books), and an incredible sculpture garden.
Providence Athenaeum, Providence, Rhode Island
A longtime fixture of the Providence cultural scene, the Athenaeum was founded in 1836 as an independent library and cultural center. Containing a rare book collection, a children’s library, and an eclectic art collection, the Athenaeum has a lot to offer the library aficionado.
Fans of Edgar Allan Poe, take heed! Poe visited the Athenaeum with his then-fiancee Sarah Helen Whitman in 1848. It was two days before their wedding, and the couple was taking their ease in a small alcove at the Athenaeum. A courier arrived with a message informing Ms. Whitman that Poe had returned to drinking. At that moment, she broke off their engagement and fled the Athenaeum. They parted ways soon after. Edgar Allan Poe would be dead within a year.
The Athenaeum is open to the public. You can even bring your dog! However, if you want to check something out you’ll have to become a member.
Or just browse through their amazing digital collection!
Looking for a unique gift for a Poe fan? We have a candle for that!
Hearst Free Library, Anaconda, Montana
This beautiful turn of the 20th century library is found amidst the stunning natural beauty of southwest Montana. The library was built as a gift to the small town of Anaconda by Phoebe Hearst, wife of George Hearst and mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Mrs. Hearst intended the library to be a cultural center and public gathering place. She donated books as well as art. After she handed over the day to day operations of the library to the City of Anaconda, Mrs. Hearst continued to donate books yearly.
If you’re looking for a bookish detour or a library fix while you’re traveling through Big Sky Country, be sure to stop at the Hearst Free Library.
There’s nothing like a beautiful old library to light your imagination and awaken the scholar within. The next time you need that “vintage library” fix, pay a digital or in-person visit to one of these lovely libraries.
Library lovers, you will adore our Nostalgia and Banned Books candle collections. Check out the label’s vintage library card design! These scented book candles make wonderful bookish stocking stuffers or teacher holiday gifts.
Or just a cool addition to your home library or favorite bookshelf.