By Chris Weller
Libraries are a timeless treasure.
Even as ereaders make paper books less necessary, people still crave a physical space to surround ourselves with knowledge. When done right, those spaces can be works of art.
To find the most beautiful libraries in each state (and a couple bonus libraries at the end), Business Insider looked at past and current award-winners as judged by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association awards, and relied on our own judgment for states who have never won.
Alabama: The Birmingham Public Library consists of 19 branches and is one of the largest library systems in the southeastern US.
Alaska: The Homer Public Library won the 2007 Honor Award, AIA Alaska Chapter, for its modern design and use of local materials.
Arizona: The Arabian Library in Scottsdale won the 2009 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its soft, sloping lines and beautiful wood construction.
Arkansas: The Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center in Little Rock earned a 2015 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its glass facade and low carbon footprint.
California: The Los Angeles Central Library is the third-largest library in the US, featuring a mix of Mediterranean and Egyptian influences.
Colorado: Made of sandstone, the Crested Butte historical library was built in 1883 and was originally used as a two-room schoolhouse.
Connecticut: Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, located in New Haven, features a sunken sculpture garden and translucent marble windows.
Delaware: The Wilmington Public Library was founded in the late 18th century. The building has been renovated several times since, though the facade retains its regal aesthetic.
Florida: The Gulf Gate Library in Sarasota opened less than a year ago but has already been recognized by the AIA Florida chapter for its flexible meeting spaces and warm, inviting design.
Georgia: The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Gallery at the University of Georgia lives inside a handsome brick building in Athens.
University of Georgia
Hawaii: Hawaii’s State Library, located in Honolulu, was originally funded by Andrew Carnegie and is still expectedly tropical.
Idaho: The University of Idaho, located in the town of Moscow, is the largest library in the entire state with nearly 10,000 periodical subscriptions and 1 million books.
University of Idaho
Illinois: The Chicago Public Library’s Chinatown branch won the 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its sleek design and emphasis on community involvement.
Indiana: The newly renovated Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, features a new entrance while keeping its iconic facade.
Notre Dame University
Iowa: The Cedar Rapids Public Library was a recipient of the 2015 AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its futuristic exterior design.
Main Street Studio
Kansas: The Lawrence Public Library in the town of Lawrence uses a combination of glass, wood, and concrete that won it a 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
Kentucky: The Louisville Free Public Library won an Honor Award as part of the AIA’s 2016 Kentucky Design Awards for its overlapping wooden facade.
Louisiana: The Rosa Keller Library in New Orleans was named one of the best new pieces of architecture in 2012 by New Orleans Magazine.
Maine: The Portland Public Library was once a cold and uninviting building, but a new facade installed in 2012 earned it a AIA Maine Honor Award and an AIA New England Design Award.
Maryland: The multi-floored George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University was built in the mid-18th century and is still open to the public.
Massachusetts: Overhauled in 2014, the Sawyer Library at Williams College, in Williamstown, was recently named one of AIA and ALA’s best new libraries.
Michigan: At the University of Michigan Law School, the William W. Cook Legal Library won the AIA Michigan 2011 Design Excellence Awards for its recent restoration and renovation.
Minnesota: The Minneapolis Central Library won the 2009 AIA/ALA Library Building Award. It contains no interior load-bearing walls, making for a stunning layout.
Mississippi: The James H. White Library at Mississippi Valley State University, in Itta Bena, won a 2014 AIA Mississippi Merit Award for its renovation into an open, inviting structure.
Missouri: The Kansas City Public Library features a towering row of famous books on its facade, including “Catch-22” and Plato’s “Republic.”
Montana: The Billings Public Library won the 2016 AIA/ALA Library Buildings Award for its glass design and sprawling 66,000 square feet of reading space.
Nebraska: The State Library, located in downtown Lincoln, is the oldest library in the state. It was approved in 1855, when Nebraska was still a territory.
Nebraska State Legislature
Nevada: The Prim Library at Sierra Nevada College, in the town of Incline Village, delivers a rustic feel in the heart of the forest.
New Hampshire: The main library at Philips Exeter Academy has been recognized by the AIA time and again for its lofty, circular-designed mezzanines.
New Jersey: At Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, the library was modeled after a 4th-century Roman church and is spread across three levels.
New Mexico: In the town of Artesia, the Artesia Public Library blends a traditional low-slung design with sleeker glass elements.
New York: The New York Public Library’s main branch, built between 1897-1911, is a soaring and magnificent piece of the city’s history.
North Carolina: In 2013, the James B. Hunt library, which is located in Raleigh, received the AIA/ALA Library Building Award for its wide-open reading spaces and silvery exterior.
North Dakota: The North Dakota State Library, in Bismarck, is a handsome, column-adorned building that has been in operation since 1907.
Ohio: Located in Columbus, the palatial William Oxley Thompson Library won the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
Oklahoma: In Oklahoma City the Northwest Library was designed to let in plenty of daylight while staying durable, since it features rooms for storm safety.
Metropolitan Library System
Oregon: For his work on the Beaverton City Library — a vaulted and rustic structure — architect Thomas Hacker won the 2013 Region Firm Award from the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region.
Pennsylvania: The Free Library of Philadelphia opened in 1894 and has retained its sense of elegance and enormity for more than century.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island School of Design’s Fleet Library relies on a unique mixture of old and new to create a welcoming place to study or read.
South Carolina: In St. Helena Island, the St. Helena Branch Library creates a cozy environment with lattice-enclosed reading spaces inside, and relaxing open spaces outside.
South Dakota: The University of South Dakota library features light-filled floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the Vermillion campus.
University of South Dakota
Tennessee: The Bellevue Library in Nashville won the 2015 AIA Tennessee Merit Award for its flexible design that caters to large groups or intimate gatherings.
Texas: Formerly a Walmart, the McAllen Public Library gives kids ample room to roam around and find secret hiding spots to read. It won a 2013 AIA Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture.
Utah: Built in 2003, Salt Lake City’s Main Library could pass as a sunlit shopping mall, were it not for the many shelves of books.
Vermont: Northfield’s Brown Public Library stays faithful to the New England vibe with its red-brick facade and white columns.
Virginia: The Slover Public Library in Norfolk earned a 2015 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
Washington: The Renton Public Library in the city of Renton boasts an industrial and natural feel, which earned it a 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
West Virginia: High on a lush hill, the West Virginia University Library peers over the Morgantown campus.
Wisconsin: Located in Madison, the Wisconsin Historical Society library features an enormous reading room with cross-hatched glass ceilings.
Wyoming: The Sublette County library, with its evocative country aesthetic, was awarded the 2009 Western Mountain Region Distinguished Building Award.
BONUS: The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is the oldest federal cultural institution in the US and contains 130 million collection items across 2.1 million square feet of space.
BONUS: Puerto Rico, the largest US territory, is home to Biblioteca Carnegie. The neo-classical library was built in 1914 and officially named in 1917 after a sizable donation from American business leader Andrew Carnegie.