For "The Library Book," photographer Thomas Schiff traveled across the US in search of the most stunning library architecture.
Libraries are not just spaces to grab a book, read, and study.
They can also be architectural masterpieces that tell a story about the time and place they were built.
Over the last two decades, photographer Thomas Schiff has captured panoramic photos of over 100 beautiful libraries across the US.
Check out some of his library photos, which span from Baltimore to Des Moines, below.
"The Library Book," by photographer Thomas Schiff, is a new book that features panoramas of over 100 American libraries.
The Boston Athenæum, one of the oldest independent libraries in the US, is pictured below.
To take the photos, Schiff often visited the libraries about an hour before they opened, he tells Business Insider.
That's why most of the photos, like the one of Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library below, don't include people.
He decided to take panoramic images because they give a fuller view of the spaces than traditional head-on photos.
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the George Peabody Library features five levels of dramatic cast-iron balconies that stretch 61 feet tall. It opened to the public in 1878, and also serves as a Johns Hopkins research library today.
"The panoramic format allows you to really see the library — not just what's in front of you, but you can also see what's to the left, right, and behind you in one photo," Schiff says. "It allows you to look at the world in a way that you couldn't otherwise see it in real life."
It took Schiff about 15 years to assemble enough photos for a book.
When he began his travels, he visited high-profile sites, like the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
But Schiff soon discovered many libraries in small towns that are just as magnificent.
Vermont's St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, for example, is partially an art gallery with a collection of 19th century paintings on its walls.
The Amelia Givin Library in Mount Holly Springs, Pennsylvania is one of Schiff's favorites. He describes the 19th century building with ornate woodworking as an inviting space that the community takes pride in.
As a photographer, Schiff was not only attracted to the ornate book shelves and vast reading rooms of libraries …
… but also to their symbolic role as places for public education.
Cities commissioned renowned architects to build many of these libraries, like Frank Lloyd Wright for the Lawrence Memorial Library in Springfield, Illinois.
"It struck me how the people that built these libraries cared very much about the mission of libraries: to assemble a collection of knowledge about humanity and preserve it for people to see, read, and learn about," Schiff says.
Pictured below, the Iowa Law Library is known for its two spiral staircases and marble paneling, as well as its specialized collections of legal periodicals and books.
"It’s an interesting question as to whether the civic statements some of these buildings make are more important than the books they have on their shelves," Schiff writes. "A library is invariably a statement: a realization of the prevailing or forward-looking civic ideals, by the architect, the philanthropist, the community."
Schiff hopes that his book will serve as an homage to libraries, showing why they're worth preserving.
"They're really spectacular," he says. "They were designed with the idea of putting a great amount of resources to make a building that stands out as a landmark."