Thursday, September 14, 2006

Traveling Librarian: Seattle Public Library

While traveling on the West Coast, I stopped in to check out the Seattle Public Library's dramatic glass and steel gem. This building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is a bit confusing to maneuver (see this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article). As you can see the library is quite large (over 360,000 square feet!) and spirals up eleven floors. As I wandered around, I stumbled upon the "Mixing Chamber". This fifth "floor" houses over 145 public computers and reference librarians who help with the most miniscule question to in-depth research. Above the librarian's desk, there is a huge six-screen electronic installation; this piece of art "uses checkout data to visually display what the community is reading". It is rather interesting, as it resembles a stock market exchange board, but upon closer inspection titles of books dash across its' screens. The non-fiction books are housed above this "floor". The self-guided tour handout describes this section as: "A series of flat tiers connected by gentle ramps allowing [sic] the nonfiction collection to be laid out in a continuous run. Dewey Decimal System numbers on floor mats provide guidance."

This building made me smile when I saw it and when I meandered around inside. It's huge, it's beautiful, it's forward-thinking, and it is a place worth visiting. - your traveling librarian

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