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Libraries are almost as ancient as the written word. The oldest-known library, the Library of Ashurbanipal, dates back to the 7th-century BCE. Belonging to an Assyrian king and housed in two buildings in his palace in Nineveh (located in present-day Iraq), the library contained some 30,000 cuniform tablets, as well as diptychs and parchments, on subjects ranging from administrative government topics to religion, medicine, history, and even several epics and myths.
Collections like this one and the Library of Alexandria were not meant to be places you could go to check out the latest bestseller, but rather they were intended to be repositories of information, places the world could send their hard-earned knowledge and stories, where they would be kept safe and secure lest we someday forget. Lending libraries, or circulating libraries, didn’t really take off until the 17th and 18th centuries when subscription libraries like Benjamin Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia were founded and mandates like the Museums Act were passed.
Today, we find ourselves almost spoiled for choice when it comes to libraries. There are 116,867 libraries in the United States alone as of 2019, and with the rise of e-readers and smartphones, we’re able to easily borrow materials from collections all over the world with just the press of a button. To celebrate the role of libraries (past and present) in our world, HeyTutor rounded up images of 15 beautiful libraries from around the world. Some of these institutions are thousands of years old, while others are have been disseminating materials for less than a decade.
Regardless of their age, the libraries all have the same goal in mind: The egalitarian sharing of information and ideas to people of all races, ages, and creeds.