Libraries are almost as old as the written word. The oldest known library, the Library of Ashurbanipal, dates back to the 7th century BCE. Belonging to an Assyrian king and housed in two buildings of his palace in Nineveh (located in present-day Iraq), the library contained some 30,000 cuniform tablets, as well as diptychs and scrolls, on subjects ranging from governmental administrative subjects to religion, medicine, history, and even several epics and myths.
Collections like this and the Library of Alexandria were not meant to be places where you could check out the latest bestseller, but rather repositories of information, places where the world could send its knowledge and stories hard-won, where they would be kept safe lest we ever forget them. Lending libraries, or circulating libraries, didn’t really take off until the 17th and 18th centuries, when subscription libraries like Benjamin Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia were founded and mandates like the Museums Act have been adopted.
Today, we are almost spoiled for choice when it comes to libraries. There are 116,867 libraries in the United States alone in 2019, and with the rise of e-readers and smartphones, we’re able to easily borrow materials from collections around the world at the push of a button. To celebrate the role of libraries (past and present) in our world, HeyTutor has collected images of 15 beautiful libraries from around the world. Some of these institutions are thousands of years old, while others have been circulating documents for less than a decade.
Libraries of all ages have the same goal in mind: the equal sharing of information and ideas with people of all races, ages and creeds.