The United States  is home to more than a 100 thousand libraries. While a majority of those buildings are academic libraries, the United States still has some superb public offerings. Even though the real beauty lies in their knowledge held within their walls, some public libraries are gorgeous. They are too stunning in appearance to go unnoticed. There are many beautiful public libraries in the country, but some have aesthetics that are legendary. The following five public libraries transcend their function of public learning and also serve as works of art.

1.) Library of Congress

The iconic Main Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States. Located in Washington D.C., it is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill. Not only is it the largest library in the United States, it is also the largest library in the world with more than 34 million volumes of works. And of those 34 million volumes, nearly half of them are in languages other than English. The Library of Congress contains materials representing more than 470 different languages.
The three buildings the Library of Congress occupies are all named after former U.S. Presidents. The James Madison Memorial Building is the newest building, opening to the public in 1980. The second building, The John Adams Building, has gorgeous ornate bronze doors and is famed for its beauty. It also serves as the original building of the Library of Congress. However, it is The Thomas Jefferson Building that garners the most attention. The Thomas Jefferson Building first opened in 1897 and is known for the famous Main Reading Room. The Thomas Jefferson Building is a compilation of the “American Renaissance.” Classically trained American sculptors and painters decorated the building with illustrious works. And their aesthetic touch has served to showcase the progress of American culture.
The Library of Congress also holds the largest rare-book collection in North America. There bounty of books is impressive too, with a massive stock of more than 700 thousand rare volumes. Included in their rare-book collection is the largest collection of 15th-century books in the Western Hemisphere.

2.) Boston Public Library

Bates Hall is known for its coffered ceiling in a wide catena-arched barrel vault.
Located in Massachusetts’s capital, The Boston Public Library is also known as the Library of the Commonwealth. It was first established in 1852, but only after several smaller libraries in the Boston area finally bought into the idea of one unified public library. The Boston Public Library isn’t the largest public library in America, even though it is the country’s first. It only has approximately 19 million volumes. This puts it well short of the 34 million that the Library of Congress boasts. But included in those copies are first edition folios from Shakespeare and original music scores by Mozart.
Architect Charles Follen McKim designed the current building for the Boston Public Library. McKim wanted to create a “palace for the people.” Despite this desire, the library was eventually renovated with expansions in 1972. Soon after, however, it was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Today, it is considered “the first outstanding example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America.”
The Central Library is known for it’s beauty, comprised of two buildings. The McKim Building, named after the building’s architect and built in 1895, houses a majestic reading room called Bates Hall. In 1996, a more than 50 million dollar restoration of the reading room began, adding new woodwork to the room.  The second building to make up the Central Library is the Johnson Building. The Johnson Building is similar to the McKim Building, constructed from pink granite. However, it’s relative lack of windows has caused some to refer to it as a mausoleum.

3.) Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Central Library in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Public Library is the largest public library in the western part of the United States. It is home to nearly 6.5 million volumes of works. Serving the greater Los Angeles area, it also serves the largest population of residents in the United States.
The Los Angles Library is a mixture of old and new architecture, which adds to its celebrity. The original building was constructed in 1926 and was the creative genius of architect Bertram Goodhue. Goodhue created the library in an Art Deco style, drawing upon design elements of ancient Egypt. The Central Library contains influences of Mediterranean Revival architecture too, and includes an array of pyramids and mosaics. In fact, the most recognizable and famous feature of the Los Angeles Public Library is the tilted pyramid at the top of the Central Library. On the pyramid, there is a golden hand holding a torch.
Yet, the torch might have been a bad omen, as the Los Angeles Public Library has been victim to two fires in the late 1980’s. Luckily, the library was renovated in 1993. In addition to renovating the original Goodhue Building, the Tom Bradley wing was established. This new wing resulted in adding nearly 330,000 square feet of space to the Los Angeles Public Library. The new wing was built with Modernest and Beaux-Arts influences.

4.) New York Public Library

Even the entrance to the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room is a treasure on the eyes.
The New York Public Library is one of the biggest libraries in the world. However, there is still some debate on whether the Boston Library actually has more volumes. Furthering the debate, many scholars argue which one is more historically important and also which is more aesthetically pleasing.
The main building for the New York Public Library is known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. It was completed in 1911 and cost a whopping $9 million dollars at the time.  Since it’s construction, the building  has been declared a National Historic Landmark as of 1965. It also found a place on the National Register of Historic Places starting in 1966.
So what makes, this library so great? Well, it was a pinnacle of social rejuvenation during the Great Depression. It also houses the iconic Rose Reading Room. The Rose Reading Room was the largest reading room of its kind when it was constructed. It is 77 feet wide by 295 feet long and has memorable 52-foot-tall ceilings. 
The Rose Main Reading Room was one of its kind and still remains iconic today.

The room is lined with thousands of reference works that sit on open shelves. The books are lit by massive windows and grand chandeliers. The room also boasts majestic and sturdy wood tables, plenty of relaxing chairs, and is lined with polished brass lamps. Although, not part of the initial design, the room is also equipped with computers. These allow access to the library’s online collections. Oh, and I almost forgot, the New York Public Library also has a book train. They recently installed a nearly 3 million dollar book delivery system. The system employs a conveyor belt and 24 book carts. Each of the carts or “trains” can carry carry up to 30 pounds through the library’s eleven levels.

5.) Seattle Public Library

The library is well known for its unique appearance which consists of several discrete “floating platforms” that seem to be surrounded by a net of glass and steel.
The Seattle Public Library was officially established by the city in 1890 and has more than 26 branches. Most of the branches are named after the neighborhood that they reside in. And starting in 1998, 22 of them have been redeveloped or renovated. The renovation project stems from a nearly 200 million dollar makeover proposal approved in 1998.
Most notable of the Seattle Public Library system is the Central Library, however. It was redeveloped by architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. The two architects wanted the new Central Library building to be a celebration of books. They were firm believers that people still respond best to books printed on paper. And this comes despite the arrival of the “digital age.” They wanted their design to encourage literacy and a love for printed books. Their newly designed building opened in 2004. It has eleven floors and features a “book spiral” that displays the entire non-fiction collection of the library.
The library was meant to be visually inviting inside and out. The design is meant to break away from the traditional feel of most libraries. The architect’s studies showed people saw most libraries as “stuffy.” And even though the library is an unusual shape from the outside, it’s interior benefits from the function the outer shape provides.