Shetland Library – Lerwick, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Shetland Library

This public library still showcases its former life as a 19th-century church.  


Adaptive reuse is a term commonly used to refer to the repurposing of a building away from its original use. Museums that celebrate the former lives of the buildings they occupy are some of the most common examples. However, another surprisingly common repurposing can be seen in the bevy of churches that have been transformed into libraries. 

Perhaps due to the near-sacred value placed on physical books, or maybe it’s just the luxury of high ceilings that can house hundreds of shelves, old churches appear to make perfect libraries. Whatever the reason, this particular transformation has occurred in several places across the world. A wide variety of churches, in various sizes and designs, are now home to unique libraries.

What is now the Shetland Library was once St. Ringan’s United Free Church, a relatively small church constructed between 1885-1886 and designed by R. G. Sykes. Its readaptation into a library was completed in 2002. Nearly all of the church’s original stained glassed windows were preserved and now illuminate the collection of books and other learning materials.

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Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday. Closed on Sundays.

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December 23, 2020

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