It’s not hard to channel Oscar Wilde or William Morris, both alumni of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, while seated at one of the long wooden tables flanked by rows of books that rise to meet an intricate coffered ceiling overhead. This happens to be just one of the “Most Spectacular Libraries Around The World” as published in Architectural Digest’s November 2013 issue.

University of Aberdeen New Library. Photo courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

From Scotland to Austria to Tokyo, the structures that house our earliest identities and uncertain futures are as architecturally ambitious as ever before, proving that despite the digital age (the nation’s first all-digital public library just opened this September in San Antonio, Texas) our quest for worldly knowledge rests on the same fortified shoulders.

“Libraries are evolving from establishments with a primary focus on printed matter to dynamic public spaces that prize all forms of media and foster community engagement,” states the article.

Trinity College. Photo: © incamerastock/Alamy

Whether resembling a Rubik’s Cube or fit for a Hogwarts scholar, the design spectrum housing today’s libraries have only grown more dynamic and inventive over the years. The historic Trinity College Old Library in Dublin, for instance, will attract the most serious of students with its orderly rows of symmetrically-stacked windows running the length of the building.

The style found at the Musashino Art University Museum & Library, however, adopts a more approachable facade and socially-inviting interior. It’s here that the omnipresent “bookshelf” is used in both a functional and expressive capacity—the floor-to-ceiling walls themselves resemble enormous bookshelves. Copenhagen’s “Black Diamond”, nicknamed for its polished black granite exterior, takes on a geometric presence while the elaborate frescoes that come to life on the ceiling of Prague’s Clementinum reminisce a much earlier time period.

Explore all 15 of the libraries on Architectural Digest’s list here.