in which i finally visit the seattle central library and am completely blown away

I mentioned here that I had two great opportunities, back to back, one for work and one for my union. The work trip was a Reconciliation Retreat.

For the BCGEU, I applied for and was selected to attend the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association's annual conference. (I was one of two BCGEU members who attended.) It was a fantastic conference. I plan to write a lot about it, but cannot do that just yet. 

Instead, I will pick some low-hanging fruit from the trip to capture here. One of those is the Seattle Central Library.

* * * * 

In Seattle, I met up with a longtime wmtc reader, the first time we had met in person. J is a kindred spirit, and he guided us on a very bookish tour of Seattle. We saw a beautiful Carnegie library, a university library that looks like a cathedral, and Ada's, an indie bookstore for techies, with an amazing cafe and just an awesome vibe. And possibly some other beauties that I may be forgetting. 

Seattle booklovers recently enjoyed this independent bookstore bingo.

This was all very good. And it was lovely to see some of Seattle, with all its cafes and food and skyline and water. 

But the Seattle Central Library is next-level. Library nirvana. 

Previous to this trip, I had been to Seattle twice -- once in 1996 on our way to Alaska (including a ballgame at the hideous old Kingdome), and again on a west-coast baseball trip in 2002, at what was then called Safeco Field. The mammoth Central Library, designed to much fanfare by Rem Koolhaas, opened in 2004. (When it comes to ballpark competition, no city will ever top Seattle for Most Improved.) 

Even though we're now on the west coast, Seattle hasn't yet figured into any of our travel plans. Plus I'm now a bit obsessed with Portland and plan to go whenever we can. But I will have to go back to Seattle to spend more time in this crazy wonderful library.

J said I was like a kid in a candy store. Perhaps a kid whose been deprived of sugar and all the candy is free. 

First of all, it's huge. Eleven stories, 363,000 square feet of space, and a gazillion windows. (Actually 10,000 windows.) 

And it has everything. 

The best dedicated youth space I have ever seen. 

A Children's Center that is separate, off to the side, so kids can make noise and be sheltered from adults. I was stunned by the size of both the space and the collection. All five of my library branches could fit in this Children's Center. 

Massive amounts of public space for reading, studying, relaxing, working. 

338 public computers. 338 public computers, yo!

An extensive research collection focusing on Seattle and the PNW. 

Information booklets so beautifully designed that every public library should learn from them.

So much natural light, and views, views, views. 

Just... so much. 

Many people hate the building's design and shape, but I really like it. The colour schemes are weird, and I don't understand The Red Floor at all, but I appreciate the boldness. It is anything but bland. 

If you're unfamiliar with the design, here's an image search. And another of the big, yellow escalator that was featured in every story when the library opened. 

I had a couple of very brief exchanges with some library workers. 

At the reference desk:

Me: "Is this a good place to work?"

They: "Uuuuyyyyeah... ummm... like any place, it has its pros and cons."

Me: "Are you union?"

They: "Yes, are you?"

Me: "Yes, I am."

They: "I think it's important."

Me: "Me, too."

In the Children's Centre, the librarian was practically glowing, a woman very obviously in love with her job. 

I took only a few pictures, and only with my cell phone. The pics are nothing special, but I had to have them.

Part of the teen space.

The sign shown in the photo above.

Dewey numbers on the Book Spiral

Here are a few other cell-phone pics from the rest of our day. 

The Suzzallo and Allen Libraries at the University of Washington, which locals call You-Dub.

The cafe at Ada's, with a great mobile and the beautiful logo. The full name of the store is Ada's Technical Books & Cafe -- named for Ada Lovelace, of course.

Sign at Ada's Cafe

"We filter coffee, not people."


With God's Help said...

Wow, wow, wow. The libraries are incredible! I love Ada's sign about no tips.

Amy said...

I wish I'd known about the library when I was in Seattle about five years ago. It looks amazing.

laura k said...

Thank you both!

When the Seattle Library opened, I was so disappointed that we missed it by 2 years. It was big architecture news.