PEOPLE LOVE THEIR libraries. And when their governments put money toward them, they even love to visit them. A 2012 report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services found that when investment in libraries drops, as it has in the US since 2009, usage typically falls with it. But the inverse was also true; the more public funds libraries receive, the more people tend to use them.
Perhaps that’s because a good library is more than a repository for books—it’s a community resource. It may also explain the recent spate of high-design libraries (and bookstores) popping up around the globe. Many of them function not just as singular temples to the written word, but community centers, auditoria, concert halls, and public gardens. All of them are works of art in themselves. Here are ten of note.