Colleges and Universities

Noteworthy college libraries that are guaranteed to impress

Attending college can be one of the most influential life decisions that a young person ever makes, and narrowing down university options makes the choice even more hefty for many students. There are a number of factors that go into the colleges and universities students choose, from admissions standards to athletic programs, areas of expertise to location, social life opportunities to cost of attendance, and more. But one thing that (sadly) doesn't often get the attention it deserves is a school's library. Despite increasingly private and digitalized research and study methods, a university library still stands as a center of knowledge and study for many people. Even if just for them to bring their own laptop, most students rely on libraries to be an escape that allows them to study.

While shared library exchange systems (like 'Summit') help participating schools get a hold of resources they don't have on site, a bigger base of documents and texts is always preferable, especially depending on a student's intended specialization; rare documents and writings may not be available for physical transfer. As if that weren't enough, college libraries are often some of the most stunning and majestic examples of period architecture, with some standout examples appearing, at a glance, to be straight out of Harry Potter. This article is all about giving libraries the recognition they deserve! While some big names appear on the list, you certainly don't have to jump into the Ivy League roster to find captivating, well-stocked libraries.

The University of Washington

The University of Washington's Suzzallo Library is quite a sight to behold, with high-hanging chandeliers and an even higher arched ceiling. The imposing design was imagined by a pair of Seattle architects more than 90 years ago, and generations of alumni have stories of the famed study space. The Gothic cathedral-esque layout is not guarded by stone angels, but instead by statues named Thought, Mastery, and Inspiration.

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke might not be as well-known as many of the other names on this list, but its library facilities give it reason to stand in their company. Constructed in 1905 to look like London's Westminster Hall, the library's flying ceiling arches, intricately carved from wood, look like the perfect preservation of centuries long-since passed. Williston Memorial Library is its name, and its state of the art facilities help to keep its functionality on par with its beautiful craftsmanship.

Georgetown University

Unlike Holyoke, Georgetown is a big name in university circles, and Riggs Library is deserving of just as much respect. The 4+ story building houses over 35,000 book, and was design in 1891. The architects included lavshly adorned guardrails along the upper floors, along with gilded paneling along the ends of each shelving unit. While the school does offer other library facilities for student use, Riggs is no longer open for regular student access. An unfortunate caveat that means it maybe shouldn't have made the list, but it's just such a gosh-darn cool place!

University of Michigan

All students might not find themselves spending copious amounts of time in the law library, but those at the University of Michigan should make it a college-bucket list item to stop by the Cook Law Library at least once. Cook Law is a dazzling array of detail, and one of the most intricate facilities to make the list. Gold designs adorn crystal chandeliers, and newly-added lighting shines up to highlight the intense patterned ceiling design. The walls are a medieval-looking multi-colored stone, standing in perfect contrast to the delicate woodwork of its lower paneling and ceiling. Large stained glass windows top off this feat of architecture, ensuring hours of intent observation will be required to take it all in.

University of Pennsylvania

The Anne & Jerome Fisher Fine Arts library lives up to its name by being a work of art in its own right. Photographs of the library may at first be mistaken for paintings with its gold and red glow. Designed by architect Frank Furness, the building's interior is composed of sandstone and terra-cotta, giving it a unique appearance that's hard to replicate, and certainly not seen often today. In 1891, as the library was being finished, Furness' own brother chose the many quotes and lines that adorn the building's surfaces for young knowledge-seekers to absorb.

Cornell University

One of Cornell's own, a graduate architect named William Henry Miller, designed the Uris library at his alma mater, and he did it with fantastical imagination. The library itself is intricate and features thin wood carving and shaping in its handrails, which span three stories. The room itself is quaint and fanciful in appearance, though it houses enough books to keep its students busy. The library was started with a donation of some 30,000 books from one of the university's co-founders upon his death.

Yale University

One Ivy League member on the list is Yale, with its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This library, in case the name didn't give it away, is no ordinary book room, and houses one of the world's largest collection of rare books and documents. Instead of glass windows, translucent marble panels help to keep the room lit while not allowing an abundance of natural sunlight to damage the delicate pages of its charges. This library has a more modern feel than many on the list, having been completed just over 50 years ago, in 1963.

Of course, there's more to a library than what meets the eye, and more to every university than its library, but a great place to study and learn sure don't hurt. Today, libraries are more and more becoming multi-purpose, encompassing traditional materials, digital ones, and other amenities like coffee and sandwich shops and more are sometimes built right in. When looking to university libraries, you'll also want to be sure that the topic areas you're most interested in are best-served by your choice of school and library facility. Get out there and enjoy the best libraries this country's schools have to offer!