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My instant infatuation with Seattle’s Central Library

June 30th, 2004 · No Comments

It was all so sudden. I didn’t expect it. A surprise. I was skeptical. Suspicious. I went into it prepared to fight. But as soon as I opened the door, it was all over. I had fallen in love.

Perhaps I should not use the term “falling in love” to describe my relationship with a library. I should use “falling in love” for relationships with people. Actually only one person.

But it’s difficult to say what happened to me that day. I’d seen pictures. I’d seen the photos from Myk, Chip and Garrett, among others. I’d skimmed at least one Seattle times article. But I wasn’t that interested. Neither architecture nor libraries excite me, at least not automatically. Yet I figured I should go see it so I would know what others were discussing, as part of my part-time Seattle-citizenship.

Neither the pictures nor my skepticism prepared me for the experience. It was wild. I found myself thinking about other bloggers and friends I’d wish could see it too.

For example, I wondered what j and Lisa would think about the spiral design:

The Books Spiral is a series of flat tiers, connected by gentle ramps. A gradual slope of about 2 degrees winds through the four floors of book stacks. The majority of the nonfiction collection — 75 percent of the entire collection — is located on the Books Spiral. This allows the nonfiction collection to be housed in one continuous run, and avoids the problem of having to move books into other rooms or floors when various subject areas expand. […] Only 25 percent of the Central Library collection is in closed stacks. Escalator and elevator stops are labeled with Dewey Decimal System numbers corresponding to materials on each floor. In addition, floor mats throughout the Books Spiral highlight Dewey Decimal numbers that match nearby books stacks.

The fact that I had already seen pictures of the building allowed me to focus on other details. The fact that I had small children with me meant that I didn’t get to see all the floors or photograph all. But I thought I’d share a few pictures from what I did see…

I didn’t take photos of the outside of the building. For glimpses of the (amazing mirrored) exterior, please see the bloggers listed above or the Seattle Times article

The mechanized book chute caught my eye right away.

These chairs look too tempting…imagine surfing and blogging with that beauty…I’d never want to leave my computer…
(Then again, now after reading Anita’s link, I see why they are not accessible for all…)

The vivid escalator is a psychedlic trip up into the sky.

Especially the eyes and faces watching us from the wall

This floor amazed me. The Seattle Times article said

the stunningly beautiful Floor of Babble: hardwood by artist Ann Hamilton of raised, backward letters in foreign languages that record the first lines of the library’s foreign-book collection. Patrons will walk on a woodcut of what seems like a Gutenberg press.


Computers, books and gardens together..some of my favorites…a real garden as well as a carpet one…juxtaposed…



The kids section, where we spent most of our time, is like a candy store, with colors that reminded me of rainbow sherbet.


The girls played computer games on IBM ThinkCentres.


The library also gets points from me for having a huge family bathroom (what we need at this stage of life) and a number of accommodations for kids and fun toys they could enjoy.

Although I thought that Ryan Overbey’s zeal for the library was a bit extreme, after seeing the place, I too wished we lived in Seattle.

It was garden, lounge and art gallery. It felt like a museum and also like something fast -forwarded from the future. Colors sang. Screamed. Details spoke.

Somehow though this book title seemed too appropriate…


Afterwards we stopped by a gelato shop recommended by a friend. Hey Jay, if you come to town sometime, maybe we can take you there for a belated Happy Birthday present!


On the ferry ride home, the tiramisu, raspberry and chocolate melted together and the girls scraped the bowl to the bottom! .

Now, the next thing I want to do is take Ted for a boat ride downtown, so I can fall in love with him yet once more…at the library….

P.S. Michael Hanscom posted a great collection of articles describing the new library…

Tags: seattle