8 Unique Libraries in the United States
(Last Updated On: December 30, 2021)

8 Unique Libraries in the United States


Book lovers tend to love libraries; we even have lists of libraries we want to visit – like these 8 Unique Libraries in the United States. When it comes to libraries, each one holds varying degrees of charm and style. Their architecture, history, art, and that peaceful quiet that beckons when you enter – it envelops you with the stories waiting to be read. One element every bibliophile seeks, they find in a library. You know what I’m talking about. Older libraries greet you with it at the door, while others wait until you enter the stacks and open the book before hitting you with the sweet essence of old books.

These 8 Unique Libraries in the United States will have that old book essence and a few other qualities worth adding to your library trip list.

Darby Free Library – Darby, Pennsylvania

In 1743, twenty-nine Quaker families and merchants organized the Darby Library Company. The library’s first collection of books consisted of 43 volumes shipped from London. It included such titles as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Gordon’s Geographical Grammar, and Puffendorf’s Of the Law of Nature and Nations. Many of the original titles remain in the library’s collection. Today the library is the oldest continuously operating free library in the United States.

The St. Louis Mercantile Library – St. Louis, Missouri

Missouri became the 24th state to join the Union in 1821. The Mississippi River made the area a prime trading hub, and St. Louis’s population was already 10,000. By 1840, it would more than triple. It would soon become a cultural center, too.

In 1846, several civic-minded leaders helped establish the St. Louis Mercantile Library – the first library west of the Mississippi River. The membership library became a forum for cultural study and historic preservation. Notable literary figures held lectures at St. Louis Mercantile Library Hall, including Mark Twain, George Cable, and Oscar Wilde.

The founders built the original building in 1952. In 1998, the library moved its collection to the University of Missouri-St. Louis. It continues to be a membership library and maintains its status as the first and oldest library west of the Mississippi.

The Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana 

Libraries across the country preserve boundless treasures. Most of them are displayed proudly for knowledge seekers to find. Others, you must be curious enough to find them. The Lilly Library at Indiana University is no different. Completed in 1960 with donations from Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr., the massive collection includes items from word lovers and historian’s dreams. The Lilly Library also has a remarkable collection of over 16,00 miniature books. From Bibles to children’s books, magazines, and much more, many of the volumes are hundreds of years old.

Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum – Hyde Park, New York

During his second term as president in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his personal and Presidential papers to the United States government. He also pledged a portion of his estate. His actions created the first presidential library at Hyde Park.

While the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library was completed and dedicated in June of 1941, his death in 1945 led to unexpected decisions – court decisions. Consider that Roosevelt led the country through a depression and a world war. Though eventually, the library was able to display most of Roosevelt’s collection.

The Browne Popular Culture Library – Bowling Green State University, Ohio

Comic books date back to 1842, and while they may not have made their way into pop culture until the 20th century, our fascination with its history leads us to The Browne Popular Culture Library. The library was founded in 1969 by Dr. Ray B. Brown at Bowling Green State University with his wife, Pat.

In 1973, Dr. Ray B. Browne founded the first department of popular culture in the country at Bowling Green State University. While the term “popular culture” has existed since the mid-1800s, Browne may have very well brought it into the popular culture.

The library’s collection includes an incredible variety of books, movies, art, music, toys, and games from several generations, all a part of pop culture history. These items reflect our language, social and political satire, childhood memories, and coming of age experiences.

Carnegie Free Library of Braddock – Braddock, Pennsylvania

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, on November 25, 1835. As a child, he immigrated to the United States and eventually became a wealthy steel magnate. Education was important to Carnegie, and in 1883, he donated his first library to Dunfermline, Scotland.

Carnegie built his first library in the United States in 1889, The Braddock Carnegie Library in Pennsylvania. William Halsey Wood designed the library with its unforgettable eclectic medieval style. In 2012, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Carnegie established 1,689 public libraries in the United States during his lifetime.

The Folger Shakespeare Library – Washington, D.C.

“All the world’s a stage,” and every potential stage of Shakespeare’s can be found in The Folger Shakespeare Library. Henry Clay and Emily Jordan Folger established the library in 1932 in Washington, D.C. Their love of Shakespeare led to a massive collection of his works.

If you’ve ever fallen in love with the words of Shakespeare – his poetry, a performance, or a turn of phrase – this library is for you. Attend a performance or explore an exhibit. Breathe in the life of Shakespeare and learn about the science behind the conservation and preservation of his work, too.

Medical Library at Pennsylvania Hospital – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The first medical library in the United States was established at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia in 1762. With a collection of over 13,000 volumes, many that date back to the 15th century, the library’s historical significance is undeniable.

There are over 1,500 national days. Don’t miss a single one. Celebrate Every Day® with National Day Calendar®!

Join the

Stay up to date on upcoming national days and Celebrate Every Day!