It's enough to make librarians kick up their heels: We're nearing the end of Return Borrowed Books Week, we're just past Library Lovers Month, and National Library Week is April 13-19. That's reason aplenty to check in with NPR book commentator Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust. She shares her list of favorite public libraries with Tim Smight for USA TODAY.
Louisville Free Public Library (Crescent Hill Branch)Louisville
Constructed in 1908, Crescent Hill is one of nine area public libraries endowed by industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The elegant, columned building underwent a major renovation in the early 1990s, leaving its original design intact. "I especially love the children's wing, which has wonderful murals and a small, room-sized castle where kids can read, play and listen to stories," Pearl says. 502-574-1793; lfpl.org/branches/crescent-hill.htm
Snohomish LibrarySnohomish, Wash.
"What will immediately strike you when you walk into the Snohomish Library is the abundance of natural light," Pearl says. "Even during those gray and rainy winter days, it feels as though the windows are catching sunlight and magnifying it." Built in 2003, the spacious library of contemporary design "has lots of nooks and comfortable seating where you can settle down with a good book." 877-766-4753; sno-isle.org/page/?ID=1207
Cuyahoga County Public Library (South Euclid Branch)South Euclid, Ohio
"Built in 1928, this library is the former residence of William Telling, a wealthy Ohioan," Pearl says. "His mansion is like a dream of a library with beautiful leaded windows, a reading garden with a fountain and 26 different rooms." Among them: a greenhouse, an aviary and a cozy study. "Although the past is very much alive here, the needs of present-day library users — for new books, Internet access, discussion groups and homework help — are not neglected." 216-382-4880; cuyahogalibrary.org/branch.aspx?id=824
Rapid City Public Library Rapid City, S.D.
"When I first walked into this beautiful library, I was struck by how sunny, vibrant and yet cozy it felt," Pearl says. "There's a solarium on the first floor filled with comfy chairs and an aquarium stocked with South Dakota game fish." The library also offers a pair of unique programs: No School Discovery Days, which feature special activities on school holidays, and a lunchtime speakers program for adults. 605-394-6139; rapidcitylibrary.org
Main LibraryOak Park, Ill.
Art lovers shouldn't miss this library, Pearl says. "Not only is there a dedicated art gallery, which has monthly displays of works by local artists, there are splendid examples of public art throughout the building — from quilts to sculptures to stained glass. I also enjoy reading the literary quotations scattered on walls throughout the library." 708-383-8200; www.oppl.org/main/index.htm
Milwaukee Central Library Milwaukee
This grand old library, built in 1898, displays French and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. Several additions help comprise the block-long building that stands today. "Two things that make a visit here most unforgettable are the grand staircase and the domed rotunda that separates the building's east and west wings," Pearl says. "The library has all the bells and whistles that today's modern users expect, yet it still gives the impression of being a cherished old friend." 414-286-3000; mpl.org/file/branch_central.htm