"Libraries Transform"

That's the theme of this year's National Library Week, an annual awareness celebration sponsored by the American Library Association.

You might be wondering why something as ubiquitous as a library would need more attention, considering the fact they've been pretty major staples of civilization since at least 2600 B.C. But that's because you live in a time and place where information resources are readily available, so it's easy to take them for granted. And of course, the only reason we have books and knowledge and guidance right there at our fingertips is — you guessed it — libraries.


Here are some physically transformative libraries from across the globe to show you just how transcendent they can be.

Tree of Knowledge? Books are like trees turned into knowledge! Photo by Alfred Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images.

1. Geisel Library — University of California, San Diego

This beautiful brutalist spaceship was named for Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel), and plenty of Seussian statues litter the gardens around it.

Photo by Belis@rio/Flickr.

2. Admont Abbey library — Admont, Austria

The largest monastic library in the world dates back to 1776, and contains thousands upon thousands of historical manuscripts and records from throughout the monks' history.

Photo by Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons.

3. The AD White Reading Room at Uris Library — Cornell University

This reading room was named for one of the co-founders of the university, but it looks more like something out of a Lemony Snicket story. The library's collection also claims one of the only extant copies of the Gettysburg Address, plus first editions of "Origin of Species," the "Book of Mormon," and "Pride and Prejudice."

Photo by eflon/Flickr.

4. Bibliotheca Alexandrina — Egypt

The original Ancient Royal Library of Alexandria was built in the third century B.C., but the newest building to commemorate it was inaugurated in 2002. The original structure was destroyed and burned frequently during historical conflicts, so while the library's latest iteration might not be that old, it's still pretty stunning.

Photo by Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images.

5. Arma de Instrucción Masiva — Buenos Aires

Why yes that is an armored tank that travels the world giving out books. OK, technically it's a converted Ford Falcon designed by an Argentinian artist named Raul Lemesoff, but this "weapon of mass instruction" (get it?) is still awesome.

Photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo/Flickr.

6. Mobile Beach Library — Tel Aviv

Who cares about a beach bod when you can flex your mind? The Tel Aviv Municipality cultural department set this cart up at Metzitzim Beach for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.

Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

7. Levinski Garden Library — Tel Aviv

Also found in Tel Aviv, this stand was setup in 2010 as a "social-artistic urban community project" specifically designed to appeal to the city's immigrant and refugee populations.

Photo by Itzuvit/Wikimedia Commons.

8. Biblioteca Vasconcelos — Mexico City

Speaking of knowledge, Wikipedia leads me to believe that this $100 million project is totally definitely not a glitch in "The Matrix." OK, sure.

Photo by Eneas De Troya/Flickr.

9. The Bibliobus, Bookmobile, or other motor-powered information vehicle

Easily accessible information is a key tenet to democracy. But not everyone can get to a physical library (or a computer with internet access). So these bookbuses bring the words to the people (or at least to underserved communities in their respective municipalities).

This particular one is run by the Ottawa Public Library system. Photo by SimonP/Wikimedia Commons.

10. Kudapustaka (translated: "horse library") — Indonesia

The mobile libraries above are cool and all, but they're not so useful for remote locations like Central Java Indonesia. Like a knight in paperback armor, Ridwan Sururi and his trusted steed, Luna, spread knowledge across the communities of the island, helping to educate its many residents.

Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images.

11. Biblioburro (translated: "donkey library") — Colombia

Similar to the kudapustaka above, the biblioburro is run by a primary school teacher named Luis Soriano and his donkeys, Alfa and Beto, and it brings literature and adventure to children in poor and remote parts of the country. They even have their very own documentary!

Photo by Acción Visual/Diana Arias/Wikimedia Commons.

12. Tiny Free Libraries — everywhere

We've already written about these and they're still every bit as wonderful as they were then.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

13. The Long Room at Trinity College — Dublin

Ireland has a long history of maintaining written records and copies of, well, everything. The history of the Trinity College library goes back to the late-16th century, but since 1801, it's served as an archive collection for any copyrighted material printed in Ireland or the U.K., making it a massive trove of intellectual property.

Photo by David Iliff/Wikimedia Commons.

14. National Library of Kosovo — Pristina

Kosovo has a long and complicated history, but it's still pretty remarkable they were able to take golf balls lodged in a chainlink fence as inspiration for a reference space full of private reading rooms. Yes, it's been called one of the ugliest buildings in the world — but in truth, that shouldn't distract from the incredible fact that a central hub of information like this has remained intact throughout all of the country's conflicts.

Photo by Fitore Syla/Wikimedia Commons.

15. National and University Library — France

Located in Strasbourg near the Eastern border of France, this library was actually founded by the German Empire after the city's original municipal library was destroyed by Prussia. In a testament to the power of information, the new library received an overflow of book donations from countries across Europe and the United States, and it now holds France's second largest collection at 3 million volumes.

Photo by Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images.

16. The National Library of China — Beijing

Sometimes reading a good book is like spiraling down an endless hole of awesomeness. That's also how it feels to stare down the levels of China's immaculate National Library, which contains the largest collection of Chinese literature and historical documents in the world, as well as one of the largest overall collections in the world, spanning more than 115 languages.

Photo by IQRemix/Flickr.

17. Community Bookshelf — Kansas City, Missouri

OK so technically this a parking garage next to the Kansas City Public Library, but it still counts. 'Cause c'mon, that's awesome. Each of the 22 books (which you can imagine endured a daunting selection process) measures approximately 25 feet tall by nine feet wide.

Photo by Tim Samoff/Flickr.

18. Philippines neighborhood library — Manila

After his parents passed away, Nanie Guanlao wanted to find a unique way to honor their memory. So he put a few dozen books outside his house for free and encouraged people to borrow them — which they did and brought back new book donations with them. 15 years later, his home library boasts thousands of books, and some locals consider it the true "national library" of the Philippines.

Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images.

19. Stockholm Public Library — Sweden

This place is just plain ol' gorgeous. Maybe "Stockholm syndrome" should mean getting lost in these stacks.

Photo by Chibi Code/Flickr.

20. Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart — Germany

Stuttgart's original public library at Wilhelms Palais was the converted home of King Wilhelm II. The new location, which opened in 2011, is less of a castle, more of a spaceship come from the future to transport our brains beyond the stars. (I always wondered why my friend who grew up in Stuttgart was so well-versed in literature; now I understand.)

Photo by O Palsson/Flickr.

21. The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library — New Haven

One of the world's largest libraries devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts, they have an original Gutenberg Bible! And if that's not amazing enough, just look at those glass columns. It's like the past and the future converged in one place. Books will blow your mind, man.

Photo by Lauren Manning/Flickr.

22. Metropolitan book vending machinea — Tokyo

Looking for cigarettes, soda, or maybe snack? Japan's got a better idea — use your imagination. (Please note: Thoughts do not contain calories and Upworthy is not responsible for any damage caused by supplementing your nutritional intake with books.)

Photo by Pedro Layant/Flickr.

23. This converted phone booth — Prague

Can you think of a better way to brighten up a hospital waiting room? If you're a book fiend with a crippling fear of hospitals, like me, it's perfect. Phone booth libraries like this have also been known to pop up in places like London and Berlin, particularly as mobile phones have increased in popularity and stationary phone booths have otherwise lost their purpose.

Photo by Michael Cizek/AFP/Getty Images.

24. National Library of Brazil — Rio de Janeiro

The largest library in Latin America has been on the cutting edge of science education and technology since it opened in 1810. And like the Mexico City library above, it is definitely totally not a scene from "The Matrix."

Photo by Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images.

25. National Digital Library — Seoul

Also known as the "Dibrary," this building boasts plenty of advanced information technology facilities, offering a wide range of e-books and magazines, and digital movies and music — just no actual physical media of any kind. But that's OK; information access still counts in kilobytes as well as in paper (wrote the writer on the website).

Photo by Mosman Library/Flickr.

So yes, libraries transform.

They transform minds. They transform cultures. They even transform the world, both metaphorically and physically. If libraries can transform spaces like this, imagine what they can do to your mind.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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