I love our feature on the The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries; to see our favourite pastime housed and cared for so diligently is delightful. Sadly that’s not the case everywhere and for every beautiful library, there is an abandoned or unused one.

Here are just a few of them.

Warning the following feature contains images of graphic misuse and abandonment of books.

Detroit Public Library Mark Twain Branch

Designed by architect Wirt C. Rowland; Mark Twain Branch Library was opened in February 1922 with over 20,000 books housed within its walls. Designed to accommodate not only books, readers and researchers this beautiful Art Deco building was large enough for conferences and meetings. Closed due to financial problems in the 90s, it was briefly reopened for two days a week before structural issues including a leaky roof and the presence of asbestos closed it for good. Despite promises of repairs and re-openings the once beautiful library was demolished in 2011.

Alexander Hamilton Middle School Library

This school library had been left to rot long before this image was taken in 2012. A beautiful building, the school was a victim to the declining population of Cleveland and closed down in 2006.


I couldn’t find much information on this other than it being an abandoned library within a Palazzo in Italy’s Napoli. Such a pity that a beautiful building has been left to decay along with its contents.

Pripyat School #2

It’s probably unsurprising that this library has been abandoned, and perfectly understandable why none of the books were ever removed.  Chernobyl remains the world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident and the town of Pripyat will long be considered uninhabitable.

Detroit School Book Repository

Although not strictly a library, this warrants a place here due its heart-breaking beauty even in its abandoned state and the devastating loss of literature through no cause other than apathy and disinterest. The district is so impoverished that children are (allegedly) not allowed to take text books home with them and yet pallet upon pallet of still wrapped text books lie abandoned within these walls.

Chateau de Floret

Now unoccupied, the Belgian castle in which this gorgeous private library is situated is the victim of humanity’s greed. Built in 1860, it was bequeathed to a group of the former occupier’s descendants who cannot agree upon a single owner; so it rots.

East St Louis Library

Not an abandoned library, a relocated library but it seems they forgot to move the books! Around 7,000 books were left behind when the library was moved to new premises and in a bizarre twist, once the oversight was rectified and the books moved to a storage facility, they were once again abandoned when the city failed to pay the storage fees.

Dr. Bekolari Ransom-Kuti Public Library

Dr. Bekolari Ransom-Kuti Public Library in Oshodi-Isolo, Nigeria is a strange one. A library that was never actually, a library. Built to honour the human rights activist it is named after, the building houses not one single book. It has lain bare since its completion and according to Afeez Ipesa, although the library was built through the intervention of state fund there was not enough money to actually equip it with the enabling furniture and books that prospective library users can make use of.

Ordos Library

Another (until recently) unused Library building can be found in Ordos China. The city was designed as a futuristic mega city yet failed to attract anyone to its streets. In 2010 it was a ghost city and its buildings although gleamingly pristine, were empty.
Today, in 2015 the city is finally occupied and I would hope, its quirky and aptly designed library will echo to hushed whisperings and turned pages.

Former USSR

After the fall of the Soviet Union, previously government owned libraries fell into disrepair and the books which had been deemed precious and were to be treated reverentially under soviet rule were left to rot.

Researching this article caused me actual physical pain. To see such beautiful buildings, housing such precious tomes left in ruins is something (as a book hoarder who throws nothing away!) that I find hard to believe.