In today's modern world libraries can seem antiquated -- a physical building you have to travel to to borrow hardcover books and other resources like CDs and DVDs. But the reality is libraries are essential to the health and success of our communities. They are safe places for children, teens, and adults to learn, explore, and ask questions. At the library, knowledge is for everyone and there are no limits to what you can learn.
Many libraries offer additional programs to their communities like family literacy, digital competency, and job preparation. And, as technology continues to push us along, they are finding innovative ways to digitize their collections to make books and resources available to patrons on the go.
Take a few minutes to explore this list of America's 10 best libraries (and library foundations). These organizations are working hard to make literacy and learning accessible to all while remaining committed to the highest standards for financial health and accountability.
The Seattle Public Library Foundation
Supporting the Seattle Public Library
Established in 1980, the Seattle Public Library Foundation helps the Library build its collection and resources, offer programs for patrons of all ages and better serve the needs of our community. Since its founding, the Foundation has raised more than $150 million to support building new and revitalized libraries in every neighborhood; creative programming for children, teens, and adults; funding for special collections; services for those with special needs; and, new or upgraded technology resources.
The Library Foundation
Enhancing our library’s leadership, innovation, and reach
The Library Foundation enhances the Multnomah County Library’s leadership, innovation and reach, helping the library address community needs through private support. In 2017, more than 220,000 people were reached with programs and books made possible by gifts, large and small, to the Foundation. The Foundation has helped to expand 15 community library programs and initiatives and made more than 153,000 books and materials available to library visitors.
Library Foundation of Los Angeles
Providing support for the Los Angeles Public Library
The Library Foundation of Los Angeles provides critical support to the Los Angeles Public Library resulting in free programs, resources, and services available to the millions of adults, children, and youth in Los Angeles. Through fundraising, advocacy, and innovative programs, the Library Foundation strengthens all 73 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library and promotes greater awareness of its valuable resources.
Chicago Public Library Foundation
Dedicated to the curious
For thirty years, the Chicago Public Library Foundation has partnered with the Chicago Public Library. The Foundation supports the library's most responsive and innovative programs, its acquisition of new technologies, and the development of its collections. This infusion of resources has helped to launch and sustain programs and services at library branches in 77 of the city's neighborhoods.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Encouraging research and promoting education in the arts, humanities, and botanical sciences
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. Each year, the Huntington hosts more than 750,000 visitors and provides 1,700 scholars with access to a world-class collection of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, paintings, prints, sculpture, and other decorative arts. The Huntington also awards more than $1.85 million in fellowships to scholars for humanities research.
The New York Public Library
A cornerstone of the American tradition of equal opportunity
The New York Public Library has been an essential provider of free books, information, ideas, and education for all New Yorkers for more than 100 years. As the nation’s largest public library system, it includes 88 neighborhood branches and 4 scholarly research centers, which offer a multitude of resources and opportunities to more than 17 million patrons each year. The Library houses a collection of more than 55 million books, e-books, DVDs, and many other resources.
Hagley Museum and Library
Collecting, preserving, and interpreting the unfolding history of American enterprise
The Hagley Museum and Library is located on the site of the gunpowder works founded by E.I. du Pont in 1802. This site of early American industry includes restored mills, a workers’ community, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family. The Hagley Library furthers the study of business and technology in America. The Library’s collections include individuals’ papers and companies’ records ranging from eighteenth-century merchants to modern telecommunications. The Library’s Center for History of Business, Technology, and Society organizes and administers the Hagley Museum and Library’s interaction with the world of scholarship.
Westerly Public Library and Wilcox Park
Stimulating the intellect and imagination by providing access to literature, information, nature, and the arts
The Westerly Public Library opened its doors in 1894 through the initiative of local industrialist-inventor, Stephen Wilcox. The Library was established to commemorate the volunteer soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War. Originally, the Library included a bowling alley, gym, art gallery, museum, and meeting space for the Grand Army of the Republic. Today, the Library is open to the public, although not publically funded, and provides free access to computers as well as a collection of more than 183,000 books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and other resources.
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Upholding the public’s freedom of access to knowledge
The mission of the Free Library of Philadelphia is to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity. Its vision is to build an enlightened community devoted to lifelong learning. All of the Library’s 54 branches provide a safe haven for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The Library offers homework help, ESL classes, supportive job search assistance, as well as other services. The Library exists to provide opportunities for discussion supported by education resources, access to a vast array of information, and ideas that transform communities, open minds, and promote inclusion.
Nashville Public Library Foundation
Investing in the cultural and educational life of every Nashville citizen
The Nashville Public Library Foundation is a committed community of leaders, learners and innovative achievers dedicated to supporting and empowering one Nashville’s Public Library. Founded in 1997, the Foundation has raised more than $47 million to advance the impact and reach of the Library and its programs and initiatives. Gifts to the Foundation allow the Library to encourage young minds, give teens a safe space to explore technology, and provide training and resources to new Americans in need of support. They also allow the Library to serve unemployed and underemployed patrons, offer digital literacy courses, and broaden minds through community events.
You can use Charity Navigator’s Advanced Search Tool and Discover feature to find even more highly-rated libraries and library foundations serving communities across the country.
Written by Ashley Post, Communications Manager at Charity Navigator.
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