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
Laramie County Library in Cheyenne Cheyenne, Wyo.
This brand-new facility opened in September 2007 and boasts more than 100,000 square feet sprawled over three floors. Among amenities are more than 70 computer stations, eight quiet study rooms and a coffeehouse. "But what really stands out for me is the library's second floor, which is devoted to children and teens," Pearl says. "There's a loft area for reading, and kids of all ages can exercise their imaginations at an interactive center where they can create their own short animated films." 307-634-3561; lclsonline.org
The Library Station Springfield, Mo.
Sitting in the southwest corner of Missouri, Springfield was a key stopover for those traveling the famed national highway, Route 66. With that kind of historical link, it's fitting that this popular branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library District is devoted to the theme of transportation. "You can walk Route 66 on the library floor, and an operating miniature train runs along the perimeter of the children's area," Pearl says. 417-865-1340; thelibrary.org/about/hours.cfm
Burton Barr Central LibraryPhoenix
With a design inspired by Arizona's Monument Valley, this striking building includes a five-story atrium, nine huge skylights and a 43,000-square-foot Great Reading Room that occupies the entire fifth floor. "The building also sports glass-enclosed elevators and a grand staircase that's surrounded by a stunning reflecting pool," Pearl says. "Among other amenities, Burton Barr has a highly regarded Special Needs Center and a Teen Center with a 'surround sound' room where kids can watch DVDs." 602-262-4636; phoenixpubliclibrary.org/branchinfo.jsp?bid=BBB
Minneapolis Central Library Minneapolis
"I was lucky enough to visit this Cesar Pelli-designed facility shortly after it opened in 2006," Pearl says. "I was totally taken with the openness and ease of finding my way around its four floors. You can actually see most of the library from wherever you're standing. There are cozy reading lofts, fireplaces on each floor and more than 300 computers with Internet access for free public use." 612-630-6000; mpls.lib.mn.us/central.asp
Readers, let's hear your book-borrowing confessions. What books have you never brought back to the library? Share below.