Update June 2023: The library is currently closed for renovations.
With nothing more than one long wooden hall and two stone vaults below, the Leighton Library in Dunblane, Scotland is not the most imposing collection of written works in the world, but its collection of donated works has the distinction of being the first library in Scotland.
Built in 1687, the building was the first location in Scotland built for the specific purpose of being a library. In his will, Robert Leighton, then Bishop of Dunblane, allocated money for the construction of a library for use by his diocese. After his death, the library was dutifully constructed using materials from nearby church ruins and Leighton’s library of religious texts was given over to the site. The building itself is designed with nothing more than an elevated main hall and a stone undercroft which was meant to house the first librarians. The simple building survived down the centuries, retaining its original purpose, although the sturdy stone basement was used as a bomb shelter during World War II.
After multiple renovations (but no expansions) the Leighton Library now houses over 4000 volumes and over 70 manuscripts that date between the 16th and 19th centuries. Visitors are even able to handle some of the texts under the watchful eye of one of the library’s curators. If only all of our book collections could be so well cared for.