Library Tourism: Seattle Area Libraries

In January I attended the American Library Association midwinter meeting in Seattle. One thing I had rarely done before at library conferences is to actually tour other libraries. Weird I know…so it was time to rectify that!

I saw that LLAMA was sponsoring visits to the library at Seattle University and the Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington–both spaces that have undergone recent renovations. Then on my own, I toured Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington and also the Seattle Public Library.

Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, Seattle University

Seattle University, a private university located just east of downtown, enrolls approximately 7,000 students. Lemieux Library was built in 1966. In 2010, the firm of Pfeiffer was hired to renovate the 80,000 square feet building plus add an additional 40,000 square feet to create a new “front door.”

Owing to the rain and cloudiness of Seattle (I would start to see this as an architectural theme!), the new front part of the library building features a lot of glass and natural light.

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):

  • Library and learning commons with physical and digital information resource access
  • Active learning classrooms
  • Reading rooms
  • Group study rooms
  • Individual study carrels and consultation cubicles
  • Computer labs
  • Learning Assistance Programs for tutoring
  • Writing Center
  • Math Lab
  • Media Production Center
  • Cafe

A few highlights:

Computer area with space for students to collaborate and spread out.

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Computer area, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Group study rooms that can be reserved.

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Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Research assistance from librarians and Writing Center tutors available on the same floor (two separate reporting structures, but co-located).

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Research Consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Writing Center consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

A variety of study spaces

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Reading room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Odegaard Undergraduate Library, University of Washington

The University of Washington in Seattle enrolls 40,000+ students. Red Square, the university’s central plaza is home to Odegaard Undergraduate Library & Learning Commons. Constructed in the 1970s, the building is a classic Brutalist structure which (like most of these types of buildings) appears unwelcoming from the exterior. However, you step inside to an inviting space.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Renovated in 2011-2013 by Miller Hull, the darkness of the Brutalism is gone with the addition of a skylight. A large hulking central stairwell was replaced with a more efficient staircase, opening the space up.

The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):

  • Odegaard Learning Commons
  • 24 collaboration pods with group work monitors
  • 38 large writeable surfaces
  • 26 booths or nooks for group work
  • 14 side-by-side consultation areas with power & writeable surfaces
  • 21 enclosed, reservable group study rooms with writeable surfaces and monitors
  • Odegaard Writing and Research Center
  • Learning Studio with 30 workstations
  • Computer help desk

A few highlights:

Two Active Learning Classrooms feature team tables, each with its own large screen monitor. Each classroom can seat 100+.

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Active Learning Classroom, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

In the evenings or weekends when not being used for classes, a movable glass wall can be opened, making the space more transparent so students know that they can and should be using the space.

I also noticed booth style seating where students could collaborate on projects. These booths are lettered because they can be reserved.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Study rooms can also be reserved and feature whiteboards, technology, and plenty of table space and chairs.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Research assistance from librarians and writing assistance from tutors are co-located (though still two separate reporting structures, I believe) in the Odegaard Writing and Research Center. A genius bar is set up for drop-ins, or you can make an appointment.

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

The second floor features a large computer commons area in traditional rows, but also in collaborative tables.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

The third floor features the book stacks. This is the designated quiet area and has not yet been renovated. Because the building features a large atrium, doors help to keep out noise.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

They also have a nice marketing campaign!

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

 

Suzzallo Library, University of Washington

OK, I call Suzzallo Library Seattle’s very own Hogwarts. Even Yelp and Tripadvisor think so!

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Suzzallo Library exterior, University of Washington

Harry Potter, you say? Check out the interior.

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Seattle’s own Hogwarts

When you picture the classic library, this is it. Designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, construction began in 1923.

Additional space was added to Suzzallo, and Allen Library opened in 1990. This essentially created one large library building. Interestingly, Allen Library is named after Kenneth Allen, associate director of libraries, who is the father of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Suzzallo Library is now a quiet reading room. I felt a little sorry for the four students who were studying in there on a Sunday afternoon just after it opened. There were more tourists snapping photos and taking selfies than there were students!

Oh, here’s one thing I don’t have to worry about in Wisconsin: earthquake retrofitting the library!

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Suzzallo/Allen Libraries, U. of Washington

Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library’s current Central Library opened in 2004. It’s a good example of Deconstructivist architecture. At first glance, you notice the lines of the building are all askew. You might imagine haphazard interior spaces.

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Exterior of Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Inside though, you get a modern cathedral-like feel. It features over 350,000 square feet with lots of glass and light (important in the cloudy/rainy Pacific Northwest!). We’re worshipping books here. Unlike some libraries that hide their book collection, or push it off to the side, Seattle Public Library includes books and media on its main floor.

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Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Escalators guide visitors up to floors with more books and technology.

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Escalator to upper floors

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Central Library, Seattle Public Library

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Technology area

The circulation desk features monitors that highlight books that have recently been returned.

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Recently returned books at the Circulation Desk

Besides physical materials, the library features innovative programming for citizens and visitors. Start with the Seattle Public Library A-Z Programs and Services list to find out more.

The space is open. Because of this, I thought the building would be overly noisy…and I’m not one of the “anti-noise” librarians…I just figured the design would exacerbate that. But it doesn’t. It’s quiet. People can talk at a normal level, but the building overall remains peaceful. Wayfinding was useful. Although getting back down from the top floors is limited to the elevators.

The gift shop is a must-stop while touring the building. Library lovers can’t leave without purchasing something. Can’t visit? Check out these pages:

So who else likes to do a little bit of library tourism? Let me know!

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