Beautiful Public California Libraries

California, the gorgeous Golden State, is not only home to The Wanderers, but to more than a thousand (1,146) public libraries alone!

SD Dirk  

Public libraries provide free access to information and educational opportunities all, regardless of their socio-economic status. Offered by libraries across the county, ALA’s Let’s Talk about It programs are wonderful examples of scholar-facilitated learning opportunities in libraries. In addition, many libraries present classes and discussion programs, and some even provide online continuing education courses such as the Universal Class database. Libraries typically offer free tutoring, homework help programs, and summer reading programs for kids and teens help bridge the economic divide that impacts students’ academic performance. Not only kids and teens benefit from public libraries: libraries have become a sanctuary for Immigrants and the LGBTQ community, providing a permanent safe-space that welcomes any and all. 

The California Library Association  provides leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library services, librarianship and the library community.  The CLA is governed by a Board of Directors and ran by Committees, who ultimately oversee the public libraries across the state (laws vary state-to-state; always check the rules and regulations for your area). Find a directory listing the address and phone of all the public libraries in California here.

We wanted to take a moment to highlight just a few of the most beautiful libraries in our home state:

University of California, Berkeley: Charles Franklin Doe Memorial Library | University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000 | Sun 1-5PM; Mon.-Sat. 9AM-8PM; except Wed. 9AM-5PM | 510-642-6657

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A favorite is the UC Berkeley Doe Library, the main library of the UC Berkeley Library System. The Gardener Main Stacks Collection (below) connects the Doe and Moffitt Libraries via underground tunnel.

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Among the options for visitors looking to read or study are the Doe Library Reading Room (left), with its impressive stark white high-arched ceilings, and the more intimate Morrison (Moffitt) Library (right) on the ground floor.

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San Francisco Main Library100 Larkin St., San Francisco, 94102 | Sun. 12 – 5PM; Mon. 10AM – 6PM; Tue.-Thurs. 9AM – 8PM; Fri.-Sat. 12 – 6PM |  (415) 557-4400

San Francisco Main Library  opened in 1996 at its current location, but the very first San Francisco public library was established in 1879. Visitors can bask in the vast openness of this library in addition to natural skylight thanks to a large dome.  Photo: Getty


San Francisco Main Library opened in 1996 at its current location, but the very first San Francisco public library was established in 1879. Visitors can bask in the vast openness of this library in addition to natural skylight thanks to a large dome.

Los Angels Richard Riordan Central Library630 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90071 | Mon-Thu 10am-8pm; Fri, Sat 9:30am-5:30pm; Sun 1-5pm | (213) 228-7000

Rotunda at the Central Library in Downtown L.A.

The Richard Riordan Central Library complex is the third largest public library in the United States in terms of book and periodical holdings. Renamed in 2001 for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, the Central Library is located in Downtown L.A. in the historic 1926 Goodhue Building, which is a designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Central Library’s Rare Books Department has over 16,000 volumes, dating from the 15th century, with a majority from the 18th and 19th centuries. Core collections include California History, Mexicana, Pacific Voyages, Costumes and more. The Central Library also houses and archives the extensive Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection of over 3 million historic photographs. Many images can be viewed by the public via the online photo collection.

The city’s main library is worth a visit, even if you have no interest in borrowing books. The exterior is an Egyptian and Mediterranean beauty, topped with a dramatic, tiled pyramid tower and decorated with bas-reliefs. The most stunning features, though, reside in the second floor rotunda, with its deco-meets-arabesque dome, California history mural and globe chandelier.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum 40 Presidential Dr, Simi Valley, CA 93065 | 10AM-5PM Daily | 

Library & Museum

Perched atop a hill in Simi Valley with sweeping views of the southland, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is one of L.A.’s most beautiful and unique destinations. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs is the presidential library and final resting place of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989), and his wife Nancy Reagan. As a Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Reagan Library, under the authority of the Presidential Records Act, is the repository of presidential records for President Reagan’s administration. The Library’s holdings include over 60 million pages of documents, over 1.6 million photographs, a half million feet of motion picture film, tens of thousands of audio and video tape, and over 40,000 artifacts. The Reagan Library also houses Air Force One, a replica of the Oval Office, a section of the Berlin Wall, and much more. Admission is $29 and can be purchased here.

University of California, San Diego : Geisel Library | 9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093 | Sat. 10Am-6PM; Sun. 12-8PM; Mon.-Fri. 7:30AM-10PM | (858) 534-3336

The majestic UCSD library.  Nathan Rupert

One of three on-campus libraries, UCSD’s flagship learning structure is the Theodor Geisel library. It is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

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The Geisel library contains, of course, the Dr. Seuss collection, approximately 8,500 items related to the Dr. Seuss past, videos, sketches, drawings, notes and manuscripts.  A huge catalog of the man’s history. Most people don’t know Dr. Seuss was a Southern Californian, but considering the use of color in his works–maybe less surprising now.

In Dr. Seuss-style, the library and its surroundings fittingly offer the eye a variety of architectural oddities, including Terry Allen’s Trees,  two salvaged eucalyptus trees preserved and encased in lead that eerily sing as one wanders through the grove and enters the library. According to the artist, the work remarks upon the continual loss of natural environment at UCSD by salvaging three eucalyptus trees from a grove razed to make way for new campus buildings. Two of these trees stand like ghosts within a eucalyptus grove between the Geisel Library and the Faculty Club. Although they ostensibly represent displacement or loss, these trees offer a kind of compensation: one emits a series of recorded songs and the other a lively sequence of poems and stories created and arranged specifically for this project.

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Image result for San Diego Geisel Library snake Image result for San Diego Geisel Library snakeThe east side of the Geisel forum is literally and symbolically connected to Warren Mall by the Stuart Collection work Snake Path, Alexis Smith‘s 560-foot-long slate tile path that winds towards the library. Its route passes a giant granite Paradise Lost and a small garden of fruit trees. The granite book is engraved with the excerpt “Then Wilt Thou Not Be Loth To Leave This Paradise, But Shall Possess A Paradise Within Thee, Happier Far.”

San Diego State University: Malcolm A. Love Library | 5500 Campanile Dr, San Diego, CA 92182 | hours vary | (619) 594-6728

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The Library located in a central position on the SDSU campus boasts more than 2.2 million volumes and circulates more than 488,000 books yearly. SDSU boasts a prestigious Children’s Literature program through the Department of English and Comparative Literature; the Library is the home to the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, which recently received a $1,000,000 gift donation by way of the Christopher D. and Karen Sickels Endowment for Special Collection in Children’s Literature.

The Library’s Special Collections and University Archives houses rare, fine, unique, and valuable books, periodicals, manuscripts, and documents which require security and care in handling. Other valuable historical items such as photographs, prints, postcards, memorabilia, scrapbooks, and oral histories are also held in Special Collections.


Apply online (or fill out and print the paper application) and then present a valid ID in-person at any library to receive a library card. The Library does not issue library cards online; you must visit in-person.

  • People ages 13-17 can show ID or have a parent / guardian sign.
  • A parent / guardian must sign for anyone under age 13.

A Library card is issued when the following ID is presented in-person:

  • Valid California ID with current residence address
  • Valid San Francisco City ID with current residence address
  • Valid Consular ID card with current residence address

OR, any item from EACH of the following two lists:

1. Name Verification – Current Photo ID:

  • Passport
  • Green Card
  • Military ID
  • School-issued Student ID
  • Employee ID Card
  • Out-of-state Driver’s License
  • Credit Card with Photograph

2. Address Verification (must include name and current CA residence address):

  • Mail postmarked within the last 30 days
  • An imprinted bank check or deposit slip
  • Current rent receipt (confirming 30 day occupancy)
  • Current utility bill dated within the last 30 days

3 Replies to “Beautiful Public California Libraries”

  1. This past Spring I registered for a library card for the FIRST time in my life. I can’t believe it took me twenty four years to do that. I always found libraries to be intimidating, probably to do their vastness. But I’m trying to change my way of thinking, and focus more on their beauty. I miss Love Library every day. But now I hope to pay a visit to the others you’ve listed!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The libraries I featured here ARE beautiful, but my favorite public library resources are the smaller, local libraries. They aren’t striking or famous or anything, but they are valuable. We live directly across the street from a small SD library within the chain – I love walking in to browse books, or to use the internet and free air conditioning! I have also FINALLY learned the value of BORROWING books! I prefer to buy books, so I have the freedom to highlight and write in the margins, but have wasted more money than I would like to admit buying books that end up unread or unused. With all the books I have collected I am starting to get choosy with what I add to the collection. Now, I check the library, first!


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