Unique libraries for modern bibliophiles

Megan Wilkins


Any true book lover knows that nothing compares to the smell and feel of a library. The sacred aisles, overflowing with leatherbound stories, beckon to be discovered and devoured. While the happy solitude of an old, classic library is pure heaven, there are many unique libraries around the world that are taking a new stance on lending literature. From libraries long forgotten, to libraries on wheels, these are a few of the most unique and inspired collections of books that any true bibliophile should look out for. After all, “libraries are sacred time machines, where knowledge flows and magic is eternal” - Mari Barnes

The Floating Library - Epos, Norway

For anyone looking to experience a library with a cultural impact, look no further than Epos, the book boat in Norway. This floating library stemmed from the need to provide culture to remote areas throughout the country. Due to the Norwegian landscape, many of its citizens were unable to access books without having to travel many miles to one of the bigger towns or cities. Hence, Epos was born. This book boat travels along the coast, bringing the joy of reading to even the most isolated of individuals. 

A visit to this unique library does more than fulfil the need for adventure, it also helps to support a community-driven program. Climb aboard the Epos, to experience what children and adults alike find so wonderful about this travelling book collection. If you visit Norway in summer, the Epos operates as a tourist boat, offering its passengers the chance to read-up about their destination while they set sail.  

Beach Library – Albena, Bulgaria

There is very little as immersive as reading a book at the beach. The smell of the sea and the feel of the sand make the experience even more special. German architect, Herman Kompernas, understood what a joy it is to relax on the beach with a good book, leading him to create the beach library in Albena, Bulgaria. The library itself is “open-air” and consists of over 6,000 books in more than 15 languages. 

This library is free to everyone, and encourages people to take and leave books. The nature of this type of book lending has led many avid readers to leave books in hidden spots along the coast, just waiting for visitors to find. Why not pop on your favourite sun hat and join the book hunt for a hidden gem? Or, go straight for the shelves and take a new read for the duration of your stay at the beach. Don’t forget to bring a second-hand book with you to leave behind, and take part in the tradition of writing a message to the next reader. Some even suggest leaving your email address with the message. Who knows, you may make a new friend who loves reading as much as you do. 

Weapon of Mass Instruction mobile library – Argentina

As far as unique libraries go, this Argentinian creation is one for the books. Designed by Buenos Aires artist Raul Lemesoff, the library takes the form of a mobile tank that rolls around Argentina, distributing knowledge as it goes. The books make up the outside shell of the tank and are free to all those who wish to take one. The only payment that Raul requires is the promise that the person will read the book and pass it on when they are done. 

The books at this fun little library are available in many different languages and are collected throughout the tank’s travels. Devoted Argentinian readers send books from far and wide to keep the tank well-stocked, and the information it provides is ever increasing. Apart from the chance to see the spectacle itself, one of the best reasons to visit and support this library is the fact that it provides knowledge freely to even the poorest of the country’s citizens. And that’s a cause worth fighting for.  

Bodleian Library - Oxford, UK

The Bodleian library is not so much unique as it is sacred. This group of libraries, belonging to Oxford University, is the second-largest library group in the country. However, the reason that we are discussing it now is the fact that being so expansive, there are various sections of the library that are long since forgotten by the general public. 

As one of the oldest libraries in Europe, the buildings house books that date back centuries, with ledgers to prove their providence. Visiting some of the smaller, less populated buildings is a real treat for any true bookworm. The moment you enter, you are overcome by the momentous history these pages have seen. Many a renowned writer and scholar has spent their days walking through the shelves, seeking the information to assist in their latest work. From Oscar Wilde to the Inklings, the hallowed halls of the Bodleian Library have kept a record of it all. So on your next trip to Oxfordshire, pop by one of the smaller libraries in the group, and take a stroll through history. You’ll be in great company.     

John Hay Library - Rhode Island, USA

Located at Brown University in Providence, the John Hay Library is known for its special collections. The rare and unique books available at the library are a dream come true for history lovers and avid readers alike. This library offers visitors the chance to experience one-of-a-kind books dating back centuries, which any reasonable bibliophile will view as an unmissable experience.  

The John Hay Library is most famous amongst fans of the macabre for its collection of books that are bound in human skin. Books such as these are exceptionally rare, and most are kept in private collections or have been destroyed centuries prior, for fear of witchcraft. Visitors are able to view these books, but require special research permission to handle the delicate bindings. Even the most squeamish reader would be curious to see them. 

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