The One Place You Should Visit, Wherever You Travel

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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While I thrive on literary travel, there’s another sort of literary travel that few people think to do. However, whenever I travel and do this, it’s usually the highlight of my trip.

The One Place You Should Visit, Wherever You Travel

One of the first things I do, when I visit someplace new, is to head to the library.

Kenmare library (a Carnegie library), County Cork, Ireland. From The One Place You Should Visit, Wherever You Travel.
Kenmare library (a Carnegie library), County Cork, Ireland

The library, you say? Well, whether you are in your luxury vacation in a condo hotel or backpacking to the local hostel, taking a break and heading to the local library is much more than just checking out books. The local library is the social hub of a town. It’s got plenty of book-related events. You can get a sense of local literature and language by perusing the shelves, magazines, and newspapers. There’s free WIFI, if you need to connect. There are often showings of new movies, theater and musical performances, and other cultural events. And, librarians are awesome people with excellent suggestions of things to see and do in the area.

Visiting libraries when you travel is the best way to live like a local. Here’s what I’ve found, in just a few of the libraries I’ve visited:

An odyssey of language in Shannon, Ireland. The library shelves were overflowing with books in both Gaelic and English. Our young daughter and I spent hours perusing the children’s section, looking at Gaelic books that we’d never been exposed to before – and talking about how the art in children’s picture books look different in another language and culture.

A full calendar of musical and cultural events in Köln, Germany, where I learned of free choral concerts that were some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.

A global library in Inverness, Scotland, where there was also a plethora of global language books – this time, to help teach ESL (and intrigue visitors like myself!). There’s a Loch Ness exhibit and a Titanic exhibit to ponder. There are Loch Ness activities, as well as National Theatre of Scotland storytelling workshops – all located in a beautiful, historic building.

The flooring in the Learning Center at the Seattle Library was created by artist Ann Hamilton, an Ohio native. The flooring contains the first sentences from texts in 11 languages. The artist created it to pay homage to the mystery of reading and learning. From The One Place You Should Visit, Wherever You Travel.
The flooring in the Learning Center at the Seattle Library was created by artist Ann Hamilton, an Ohio native. The flooring contains the first sentences from texts in 11 languages. The artist created it to pay homage to the mystery of reading and learning.

Architecture and design at the main library in Seattle, Washington. The floors are emblazoned with literary quotes, the children’s room is a treasure-filled hideaway, and the entire library is a haven of art, places to study and read, and an oasis within a busy city. Events include book talks, theatre, lectures on topics of interest, and cultural events (food, music, dancing, singing, poetry).

A library full of history, genealogy, sheet music, and black musical heritage in Detroit, Michigan. Visitors can explore different collections, including rare books, African Americans in the performing arts, the Ernie Harwell Sports Collection, and the National Automotive History Collection. The DPL also has incredible cultural artifacts on rotating display, including George Washington’s diary. 

Information about the local literary scene like we found at the Edinburgh Libraries. See what fiction books have been set in Edinburgh, or explore the Jazz Archive, the work of the first photographic club in the world, or Highland history and culture. Events include book readings, theater, poetry, travels with Robert Louis Stevenson, and more.

Additionally, I’ve discovered new authors by listening to them speak – and found that I loved their writing, their sense of place – in a place I was usually newly discovering myself. We’ve made friends at children’s story hours – friends that we still keep in touch with, years later.

I’ve learned more about a place from exploring the library and attending events there than I ever have from visiting tourist attractions.

What libraries have you visited on your travels? Is this one of your first stops in a town, too? 

This article was originally published at A Traveler's Library, which has now closed.

 

 

 

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