The wonder of lists

The blog started with a flurry of excitement but dissertation editing got in the way. I’ve been finished and home in Ireland for about a week, so now is the time to get back to the exciting world of spectacular libraries!

I have a confession to make. Exploring lists with titles like “The 25 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World” makes me extremely happy. Like googling cute pictures of animals on a dreary day, looking at the stunning facades and interiors of the University of Salamanca Library, or closer to home, the Bodleian, cheers me up. Although I may have never seen most of these gorgeous buildings in real life (hopefully that will change!), I feel transported away from everyday trials and tribulations just for a moment through the very act of looking. As a former History of Art student, this rapture may have partly resulted from three years of really focusing on the power of the image. In looking at paintings, sculptures and buildings as a class, we were encouraged to almost get inside the image in order to find some kind of meaning or rationale. 

University of Salamanca Library

Bodleian Library, Oxford

I must admit that I have a preference for the corniced, ancient feel of older libraries. The Reading Room at La Sorbonne is completely breathtaking – what a joy it must be to look upon such art work while studying! These kinds of buildings surely fit more neatly into my heavily romanticised view of the power of the image. It probably doesn’t help that the History of Architecture modules I took as an undergraduate were all medieval, so I’m now drawn to the elaborate and decorative.


La Sorbonne Reading Room

Although I didn’t always feel as though I understood all of the works of art in our dizzying and wonderful treks through historical periods, the colours, contours and general visual impression left some marks on my mind. In a strange way, I feel as though the modern entries in my beloved library lists make a similar impression. For me, modern architecture touches the visitor more directly through actual contact with the building. Although there are modern buildings that stir the heart at first glimpse, there is often a more defined functionality at the core of the modern library aesthetic. To give an example and perhaps save myself from some criticism from my fellow Art History buffs, I loved the Trinity College Dublin Library for its quality of light because it helped me to work efficiently. Although these libraries rebel slightly against my pictorial escapism, they provide the inspiration to actually go and see them for myself!  


Philological Library, Berlin

The Flavorwire 25 College Library selection is my favourite of the lists – the one I keep returning to as a sure-fire pick-me-up on dull, drizzly days:

If you need a quick fix without all of the page turning, Oddee’s “20 Most Beautiful” is pretty enthralling:

But any google image search will do! I try to do a bit of research about each library as they catch my eye so I can keep up with the things I learned as an undergraduate but also to build up my professional knowledge in an enjoyable (and yes, dorky) way.


George Peabody Library, Baltimore

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