© VIEW Pictures Ltd / Alamy

We’ve catalogued cutting-edge and historic libraries, from Australia to Vienna.

Musashino Art University Museum and Library, Tokyo

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Presenting the most library-like library ever: Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto designed the Art University’s 26,900-square-foot space to be constructed from light-wood bookshelves walled in with glass. Even the stairs have built-in shelves, though they’re currently empty. Compared by Fujimoto to “a forest of books,” the building stands as a powerful visual testament to the bound book’s enduring power. The museum and library are open to visitors; hours vary.

20 Libraries So Beautiful They'll Bring Out the Bookworm in Everyone

Musashino Art University Museum and Library, Tokyo

Presenting the most library-like library ever: Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto designed the Art University’s 26,900-square-foot space to be constructed from light-wood bookshelves walled in with glass. Even the stairs have built-in shelves, though they’re currently empty. Compared by Fujimoto to “a forest of books,” the building stands as a powerful visual testament to the bound book’s enduring power. The museum and library are open to visitors; hours vary.

© VIEW Pictures Ltd / Alamy

20 Libraries So Beautiful They'll Bring Out the Bookworm in Everyone

The ingeniously simple concept for the library at Tokyo’s Musashino Art University speaks volumes: it’s made entirely of wood bookshelves, with a glass exterior.

Inside, architect Sou Fujimoto’s spiral-shaped design naturally spurs the visitor onward and features light-filled, comfortable corners for reading and easy access to volumes. It’s a reminder that even in the digital age, libraries can be inviting public spaces—and that their beauty extends beyond the gilded, frescoed libraries of old.

In Vancouver, architect Moshe Safdie’s Central Library plays with tradition, rising like a modern-day Colosseum. Bridge walkways connect to study areas from a skylit concourse filled with shops and cafés.

Libraries often act as such cultural gathering places, whether enshrining masterpieces or hosting present-day events. Visitors turn up at the museum-like Marciana Library in Venice to admire works by Renaissance artists like Titian and Tintoretto. In Stuttgart, Germany, meanwhile, the library’s exterior lights up by night, and you can join locals for readings in the mod all-white interior or for drinks on the roof terrace.

If you prefer your library to look like something out of Harry Potter, set your sights on the medieval reading room at Oxford University’s Bodleian library. Kings and Nobel Prize winners have studied beneath its intricate wood-paneled ceiling. The collection includes beautiful rare maps, a Shakespeare First Folio, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

Read on for more libraries that are beautiful inside and out.

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