It’s true: these days many questions can be answered through an internet search. In spite of this, libraries endure.
Not only do they have a transformative effect on individuals and society, libraries themselves have evolved over the years to keep pace with changes in how people seek and use information. What remains constant: the library makes access to knowledge available to all. It’s still the place to head when searching for deep understanding of a given subject.
Libraries hold the many strands of human history, and the mysteries of the world as it was before we came along. They’re portals through which we can step into the shoes of explorers and scientists, brigands and baseball heroes. For so many of us, the library was where we realized that places existed beyond the realm of our experience, and where we kindled our ambitions to travel.
April is a fitting month for this little homage to the library. In the United States, April is School Library Month and also when National Library Week is observed (2018 is its 60th anniversary!). Over this month, libraries across the country and around the world will celebrate and promote library use, recognize the work of library and information professionals, and acknowledge the important role libraries play in community life.
We should also feel free to support our libraries the other 11 months of the year by using our local branch, or through volunteer work or financial donations. (At TOM BIHN, we’ve donated over a hundred Daylight Backpacks to rural and tribal libraries.)
It’s also worth considering a visit to a library when you travel. In addition to books and periodicals, many libraries contain galleries or archives, and some have troves of artifacts from the past. Some host traveling exhibits. And some are worth visiting simply to marvel at their architectural beauty. You may have to whisper, but libraries endure because they provide a glimpse into a community’s daily life that’s unlike any other.
Here are some fun library factoids—share, discuss, and dispute in the Comments.
Northernmost library in the 50 states: Tuzzy Consortium Library, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska
Southernmost library in the 50 states: Naalehu Public Library, Big Island, Hawaii
Westernmost library in the 50 states: Unalaska Public Library, Alaska
Easternmost library in the 50 states: Peavey Memorial Library, Eastport, Maine
Largest library (in terms of number of holdings) in America—and the world!: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Smallest library in America: The Book Booth, Clinton Corner, New York. With dimensions of 3’ x 3’ x 8’, it’s housed in a retired British phone box and has room for two people. It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
American library with the biggest books: Kansas City Central Library, Missouri. Okay, they’re not real books, but the library’s parking garage is decorated with 25-foot tall book spines. Titles were nominated by locals and 42 were selected.
American library with the fewest number of books: Haskell Free Library and Opera House, Derby Line, Vermont. This library straddles the U.S./Canada border. It has a collection of 20,000 books, but all of them are on the Canadian side.
Sketchiest library: Brooklyn Art Library, New York, the repository for the Sketchbook Project, containing over 35,000 sketchbooks by artists from around the world.
Seattle library with the craziest exterior: Central Library.
Seattle library with the coolest interior (and our featured image): The reading room of Suzzallo Library, University of Washington.
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