Check out 25 breathtaking libraries from all around the world.

"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.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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