Designed by the same architects as the Huntington Library, the Pasadena Public Library's Central Branch looks from the outside like an ornate hacienda — there's even a fountain by the entrance — while inside it's like a country gent's retreat. With tapestries above the front desk, a high Valhalla ceiling with elaborate grid beams and UFO-style hanging lamps, you can read or study in one of several quiet and elegant rooms off the main area or look for books on the winding, gridlike shelves of the three floors deeper inside. Everything is wood: the paneling, the book carts, the slanting desks for kids, the pews that are dotted around — even the computers are nestled in recesses so they don't spoil the effect. There are patios outside, and a coffee shop, too. And how many libraries boast a fireplace and a stone replica of the original (long-gone) 1887 library on display? 285 E. Walnut St., Pasadena. (626) 744-4066,

—James Bartlett

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