Stuart Kells, author of The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders, took his young children on a library world tour:
From our home base of Melbourne, Australia, we would build the trip around highlights. In Switzerland: Zurich’s Bibliothek and the wonderful 18th-century Abbey Library of St. Gall. In London: the British Library and Lambeth Palace. At Oxford, the Bodleian. In the U.S., the Morgan, the Folger, the Houghton, the Smithsonian, plus the great public libraries of New York and Boston, and the “head office” of them all: the Library of Congress.
A lovely idea: library tourism!
Even if you don’t plan a whole trip around them, libraries are excellent spots for weary travelers: free, quiet, cool, full of locals, and staffed by people whose job is to help any visitors who walk in the door.
Wherever I travel, I research the nearby libraries and try to pop into any I happen to come across while walking around. In Milan, I stumbled onto the Braidense National Library and saw an excellent exhibit of book art. Driving the California coast, I discovered that the public library in Encinitas has a view of the Pacific. This summer we’re planning a visit to the brand-new Eastham Public Library during a week on Cape Cod.
Of course, I’m also a big proponent of being a tourist in your own town. Here in Austin, we have a glorious new central library, and yet, I still meet people in town who haven’t seen it!
When friends visit, I say, “Let me take you to the library!” They think I’m nuts, but it’s really the best this city has to offer right now. (Especially in the sweltering summer.)
Above: inside the APL, below: outside the library, on the pedestrian path under the bridge