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Bookish Exteriors: Libraries That Look Like Books

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Gia R.

Staff Writer

Gia R. is from Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated with two business degrees. While studying, her short nonfiction story was published in 2018 in Write On, Downtown, an ASU journal. Since then, she taught preschool students abroad. Now back in AZ, you’ll find her writing, reading, and adoring digital art.

I love a good library and bookstore. I’ve covered some lovely ones in Seoul and detailed the special events and services that others provide globally. There are so many extraordinary libraries around the world. There’s a library with escalators and a bookstore with books in boats. There are libraries with a clean, minimalist interior and others that are covered from floor to ceiling in a rich, dark wood. There’s also a bookstore just for banned books and a bookstore you can run all by yourself. There are even libraries that are haunted! What else could there be to surprise me? Well, a quick visit to twitter brought me to yet another unique and beautiful library. That is: Library Les Méjanes in France. A library that looks like books.

If you’re like me, then you haven’t heard of this gorgeous library and its unique exterior. Never fear, I’ll tell you a bit about it and show you two other places like it.

3 Libraries That Look Like Books

1. Library Les Méjanes

Library Les Méjanes is a public library in Aix-en-Provence, France. It’s been around since 1810, but didn’t occupy its current location in an old match factory until 1989. On the outside, one can see three large books by famous French authors.

What books decorate the exterior?

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Imaginary Invalid by Molière

The interior of the building has a pretty open concept with places to read or work along with stacks of bookcases. In this space, you can read, check out their vast collection of books, or just bask in the bookish ambiance. The library is a major attraction in the larger Cité du Livre complex made up of restaurants, a performing arts center, and a movie theater.

Pretty cool, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there! There are two other libraries that look like books which I’ve included below.

2. Kansas City Public Library

Kansas City Public Library is “the oldest and the third largest public library systems in the metropolitan Kansas City area.” It is also a library with a bookish exterior…but that’s not exactly true. The image of a large shelf of books actually covers the parking lot for the Central Library location. As you can imagine, the city needed more places to park and the community wanted the area to still look good, so a giant book shelf was born!

What books are on this giant bookshelf?

There are 22 books and they’re 25 feet tall

You’ll find classics from all over the world that include One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, and Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. There’s plenty of beloved children’s stories like Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Some other titles included are The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. 

For the full list of these 22 books, go here

Who chose the books?

The Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees selected the books by voting on recommendations made by the community.

Where is the library then?

The Central Library is located next to the parking garage in the remodeled First National Bank building. There are many rooms that display the original historic charm like the gorgeous lobby decorated with white columns, dark wood shelves, and beautiful lighting fixtures. The library also has some lovely reading rooms including its Grand Reading Room with a skylight. Here, book lovers can enjoy the library’s extensive collection of books, articles, and photographs that relate to the history of Kansas city. 

Also, when the building was remodeled, the bank’s vault was turned into a neat space for events and programs for film organizations.

Honestly, this library has so many cool features. The book shelf on the outside is just the start.

Now, let’s see another library that looks like books!

3. Karabük University Library Kamil Güleç

This public university library located in Karabük, Turkey, is an impressive sight with two gigantic rows of books decorating the outside. The library is named after Kamil Güleç, a Turkish philanthropist who made the project possible. Karabük University Library offers many online services so a wider population can use its materials during the pandemic. One great feature is their kiosks where people can return books or borrow more. Those who go to this library have access to their catalogue of almost 60,000 printed books and a large assortment of online books and magazines. They can also utilize resources at other universities in Turkey.

What books line the exterior?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a list of books that decorate this special library. As a result, I spent some time zooming in on a variety of images to catch a few phrases on the outside of the books. Based on my research, I was able to identify four phrases in Turkish that appear on the spine of a few of these books. I’ll list them with the translations via Google translate below.

  1. “Kitap okuyarak, hayatinizin en guzel yolculuğuna cikarsiniz.” In Google translate, this roughly means “By reading a book, you will go on the most beautiful journey of your life.”
  2. “Kitaplar hiç solmayacak güllerdir” which translates to “Books are roses that never fade.” This is a quote by Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright known for several plays like A Doll’s House.
  3. “Kitap ruhun ilacıdır” which means “The book is the medicine of the soul” or “The book is the cure for the soul.”
  4. “Insanligin saadeti ilim iledir.” This translates to “The happiness of humanity is through science” or “The happiness of humanity is through knowledge.”

I’m really loving these phrases about books and the reading experience. It’s a great reminder of how one book can open one’s mind to new ideas, places, and worlds.

There you have it! Three unique libraries that look like books. Who would’ve thought there would be more than one to fit this niche aesthetic? I don’t know about you, but I’m into it. I’d love more libraries that look like books, whether they’re shaped like a book or modeled after the setting of a particular book.

What do you think? If you could create a library that looked like books, which books would you choose? Would you stick with your all time favorite book or a more recent read? If you could choose several books, what genre would they be? Would you focus on a sweet children’s story or a YA science fiction book?

Would you consider a fun and magical exterior to commemorate your favorite fantasy book? Or would you have the lines from a beloved poetry book inscribed on the library walls?

The bookish possibilities are endless!

For more exciting book related places, check out our other Cool Bookish Places articles.