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9 California Public Libraries That Are Too Cool to Miss

9 California Public Libraries That Are Too Cool to Miss

Incredible architecture and impressive collections are a few of the many factors that make California public libraries cool places to visit.


5 min read

June 01, 2021

It’s always a good time to curl up with a classic book, especially when you live in a state with so many amazing public libraries. Incredible architecture, impressive collections, and great history are a few of the many factors that make California public libraries cool places to visit.

Get ready to update your summer reading list with remarkable female, Latinx, and Black authors—you’ll definitely be spoiled for choice at the Golden State’s coolest libraries.

Southern California public libraries

The San Diego Central Library is topped with an iconic steel-and-mesh lattice dome over a two-story rare-book reading room.

The City of San Diego Libraries

San Diego has over 20 public libraries scattered throughout, the most famous being the San Diego Central Library on Park Boulevard. This California public library is a modern structure with a dome-like roof and an equally cool interior.

The City of San Diego libraries are usually open every day, except Sundays. Most of them offer pickup services, computer usage, printing, and reader’s advisory—all of which you can access with a San Diego library card.

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The Huntington Library

A library, art museum, and botanical garden in one—the Huntington Library is a fantastic San Marino destination you should check out. A one-stop-shop for all your California information needs, the Huntington Library has over 300 archival collections on the state’s history, as well as a botanical garden with native plant life.

Enjoy a coffee at the on-site cafe and spend your day browsing through the large collections of books spanning all genres before heading to the museum for your art fix. Don’t forget to check out the rotating list of exhibitions while you’re there—this California public library is one you should keep on your itinerary.

Get a library card, reserve your books, and enjoy spending hours reading classic literature borrowed from the City of Riverside Public Library.

City of Riverside Public Library

Riverside’s public libraries are a true testament to a city recognized for the arts and innovation. Housing one of the largest collections in all of Southern California, the Main Library has been serving the local community since 1889. 

You’ll find veteran services, a toy lending library, adult literacy programs, and more at this California public library. If you have a particular inquiry that you can’t find at the Riverside public library, requesting materials from other libraries is also a possibility.

Public Libraries in Los Angeles

When the Los Angeles Central Library opened in 1926, the building's exterior featured expanses of unadorned concrete and modern architecture.

Los Angeles Central Library

As the last work of iconic American architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the Los Angeles Central Library unarguably has one of the coolest library designs ever. Ornamental and symbolic artworks are integral to the library's look, with limestone sculptures on the exterior and several murals and sculptures inside.

While the library structure doesn’t lack in grandiosity, its collection isn’t any less impressive. You’ll find several departments for almost any interest at this California public library, ranging from art, music, and recreation departments to science, technology, and patents. 

Despite having more than a million books damaged or destroyed due to a mysterious fire over 30 years ago, this public library in Los Angeles still stands high and mighty. Check out the vast collection of resources, stroll through the unique halls, and take part in any ongoing events while you’re there—you’re going to be in literary heaven.

The County of Los Angeles Public Library extends over 3,000 square miles and is one of the major libraries of the U.S.

L.A. County Library

The County of Los Angeles Public Library is one of the largest public library systems in the U.S., serving residents in 49 cities in the state. Headquartered in Downey, this library system is overseen by a commission of 20 members.

The L.A. County Library provides many resources, including literacy services and programs for families and children. For those who prefer to use the library services from a safe distance, this California public library has plenty of COVID-friendly resources. These include free outdoor internet connection, online workshops, and other cool virtual experiences.

Northern California public libraries

The San Francisco Public Library is well-funded due to the city's dedicated Library Preservation Fund that was established by a 1994 ballot measure.

San Francisco Public Library

The main library of the San Francisco Public Library system is located at Civic Center. The city’s dedicated Library Preservation Fund has aided in making San Francisco’s libraries some of the very best in the country—winning several awards over the years.

Besides having an impressive collection, the San Francisco City Library also offers services for the betterment of the community. Among these is the homeless and poverty outreach library team, which helps with housing and other services for unhoused people. All you have to do to support this California public library is join and become a member, all while enjoying the many benefits the library offers.

Dublin, California Library

The Dublin Public Library is an open and welcoming space committed to creating opportunities through reading, learning, and engaging with people. With a mission to build an informed and thriving community, this California public library offers all the necessary facilities, services, and programs for people of all ages and educational levels.

A cool feature offered by the Alameda County Library Federation is the Bookmobile. The traveling library offers fiction and nonfiction materials and resources. The Bookmobile frequently visits schools, daycares, senior housing facilities, and community centers. Simple but effective, this California public library service creates a community wherever it goes.

The Sacramento Public Library opened on June 14, 1879, with a collection of around 6,000 volumes to serve a city of 21,000.

Public Library Sacramento

The fourth largest library system in California, the Sacramento Public Library offers almost two million books, research papers, and everything in between. You can use the services of this California public library at 28 branches around the area. But, if you’re unable to be there in person, turn to the virtual services and programs. 

The library has offered more than 160 virtual programs this year and dedicated the month of April to the celebration of Día. Also known as Día de Los Niños, the month-long affair was championed by poet Pat Mora, aiming to bring together families and kids with a shared passion for reading.

Redwood City Public Library

The Redwood City Public Library does a fantastic job of creating a community by welcoming people to experience and share the joys of reading and learning. One of the greatest initiatives the Redwood City Libraries are involved in is Project READ. A free, volunteer-based literacy program, Project READ aims to break the cycle of illiteracy indefinitely by “giving the gift of reading.”

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