5 Most Important Libraries in the United States

5 Most Important Libraries in the United States

Does your public library have a long and illustrious history? Or is it just an ordinary building where you visit to find your next relaxing read? Believe it or not, there are several libraries in the United States that have immense historical and cultural significance. Read on to learn about the five most important libraries in the United States.

The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the official research library of the United States Congress. Its main purpose is to answer research inquiries from members of Congress, but is open to the public as well. It is the oldest national institution in the U.S. and includes the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence as well as one of only three perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

The New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Library)

At its opening on May 24, 1911, the New York Public Library attracted more than 30,000 visitors. The library was built in response to the dying wish of former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden to “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.” Known for the famous stone lions flanking its entrance, this library is also famous for its extensive historical collections. These include priceless medieval paintings, ancient Japanese scrolls, and a comprehensive Maps Division.

Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library is one of the oldest and most respectable libraries in the United States. Its first home was in a schoolhouse on Mason Street, which opened its doors to patrons on March 20, 1854. Later, it moved to its current home: the Johnson Building and the McKim Building—a stunning example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America.

In addition to magnificent architecture, the Boston Public Library boasts a multitude of spectacular collections including several first edition folios by William Shakespeare and the personal library of John Adams.

The Library Company of Philadelphia

America’s first successful lending library, the Library Company of Philadelphia was established by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 to provide greater access to expensive and hard to find books.

Currently, the main focus of the Library Company of Philadelphia is American society and culture from the 17th century to the 19th century. Its collections are made up of rare books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and graphics documenting multiple aspects of American history.

Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is one of the largest buildings in the world completely devoted to rare books and manuscripts. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1963, it is a modern monument of granite, marble, bronze, and glass. Some significant holdings of the library include early Greek and Roman papyri, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, Near Eastern manuscripts, and historical archives of English and Italian families.

Great libraries make for great people. So the next time you are browsing the stacks at your local library, think of these giants of history and culture and be proud to be a part of such an important heritage.

For more information, please visit librarysciencedegree.usc.edu.