From ancient to modern, libraries with all the knowledge they keep safe, will always take my breath away. I used to spend a lot of my time in my small local library. I loved the scent of books, sitting there, perfectly lined up on shelves. The library was a sanctuary for my thoughts. There was something about the order of it, the silence that lingered over the desks and tall windows that sent the perfect light to a freshly opened page. I wondered how many books from that library I will never get to read. I can say, with certainty, that that library created me as a writer.
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Back to libraries now. If you’re a bit like me, you love libraries too. And I bet you’d love to read about all the interesting secrets that libraries out there keep between their walls. So let’s go on this journey together.
The oldest known library in the world is the Library of Ashurbanipal. It was founded around 7th century BC for the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal. It held about 30,000 cuneiform tablets and most of it was archived and religious documents, scholarly texts, and a few works of literature – the most famous being “Epic of Gilgamesh.”.
The Library of Alexandria came to life after the death of Alexander the Great, with the help of his former general Ptolemy I Soter. This jewel of the ancient world kept more than 500,000 papyrus scrolls – literature work and texts on history, math, and science. Even Euclid and Archimedes visited the library of Alexandria at one point.
Library of Alexandria also had a competitor – the Library of Pergamum. Build and devoted to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, the Library of Pergamum had about 200,000 scrolls. It also attracted scholars.
Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and its Imperial Library had a collection of about 120,000 scrolls. Many fires destroyed the content of the Imperial library, and when it finally burned down in 473, almost all the scrolls were lost. Constantinople’s Imperial Library was one of the last ancient libraries to exist.
Weirdest Libraries in the World
A phone booth can become a book storage place. Westbury-sub-Mendip’s Phone Booth Library is run by volunteers, open 24/7 and it even has a light to let the visitors browse books at night. It holds about 100 books, as well as CDs that all came from residents. The residents will often bring the books that they finished reading to swap them for those they didn’t read and the volunteers will keep track of the books or ship some to a local charity shop. Westbury-sub-Mendip’s Phone Booth Library inspired the birth of many other phone booth libraries all over England.
The Black Sea Beach Library is maybe in the most perfect place possible. You guessed it – the beach. Nothing screams vacation more than this setting. It functions in a way that the visitors can take the books they want to read and leave the ones they finished reading.
Kenya National Library Service uses camels to create a library caravan for the nomadic communities. Since nomads have very little access to the literature of any kind, their literacy levels are low, but the camels are there to help them read more, and they serve about 5,000 people. Camels aren’t the only animals to carry books, donkeys are used as moving libraries too.
The Largest Libraries in the World
British Library, the national library of the UK when it comes to the number of cataloged items, which is estimated at 170 – 200 million.
Library of Congress takes the second spot on the list of largest libraries in the world, and it serves as the US national library. The number of cataloged items is estimated at 170 million-plus.
Shanghai Library, which also houses Shanghai Institute of Scientific and Technological Information, takes the third place on the largest libraries list, and the second on the tallest ones – its height is 348 feet.
New York Public Library holds about 53 million items, and it’s the second-largest public library, right behind the Library of Congress, in the US.
Library and Archives Canada holds more than 20 million books, 24 million photographs, and more than a petabyte of digital content.
This world is filled with wonderful libraries that hold many stories. And where there are no walls, animals are used to transfer the power of books and knowledge to the distance and help raise literacy. But there’s a question I’d like to ask you – what library would you like to have your book in? Comment below.
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