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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Seattle: Seattle Public Library

Travel on the Side

Why did I visit a library on my vacation? Well, I am a librarian, of course!

If I see a library, I like to pop in and check it out. The Seattle Public Library Central Library is an architectural wonder. Soaring high, lots of glass, shiny escalators, natural light.

Are there books? Yes! But for me, a library is all about people. Lots of library patrons were on the computers researching, getting job help, reading, studying, and socializing.

One of the cool things I saw was near one of the circulation desks. Above was a monitor featuring a map of keywords of recently returned books.

Seattle Public Library Seattle Public Library

Travel tip: When you’re on vacation, a visit to the local public library is a good way to get restaurant recommendations and tips for “non-touristy” sites. Librarians are there to help…and they know EVERYTHING!

Below are some more photos. For the…

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Update: My Rant on Little Free Libraries

When I wrote my rant about Little Free Libraries, you would have thought I was criticizing apple pie and baseball. For the record, I love apple pie but can’t stand baseball (the game is long and my attention span is not). I was called everything from an “elitist prick” to a child hater to being against literacy.

Do I stand by my thoughts on Little Free Libraries?…for the most part. But here are a few points I want to refine.

1. Engagement with Your Local Public Library
If people spent the amount of time they devote to Little Free Libraries and used that time to lobby for their local public libraries, THAT would be a good thing. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but citizen action is good.

2. Library “Deserts”
You’ve heard of “food deserts“? The same thing applies to people who live in urban and rural areas that don’t have easy access to a public library. This is an opportunity for public libraries to partner with groups to sponsor Little Free Libraries with materials that people in those communities would be interested (e.g., let’s NOT go down to the local used “book barn” and pick up dusty copies of all old books) in reading.

3. Go Where Needed
This is related to above. If public libraries don’t want to partner on this, then think about where your LFL might be most needed. I’ll be blunt (warning: mini-rant ahead!): I get that you like to read. And you want to put something cute in your front yard. But ask yourself this: If you live in a predominantly homogenous, middle to upper class neighborhood with low unemployment, good schools, and easy access to a library, is your LFL helping that many people out? Why not partner with people in other neighborhoods who might benefit more? Step out of your comfort zone.

4. But I Still Want a Little Free Library!
No one is stopping you (for the most part; see below). But instead of just throwing a bunch of books in the box (which is mostly the depressing feel I get when I visit one), think about what might interest people in your neighborhood. Or maybe do a “theme” LFL and promote in your city. Maybe you can be the LFL for sci-fi or fantasy YA lit or Christian lit in your community.

5. Tear Down this LFL? No.
Should a 9-year old boy have to beg city council to keep his Little Free Library open? No, of course not! I’m generally a “reliable liberal” (or whatever that category was on the Pew survey). However, when it comes to my property, I take a decidedly libertarian bent. Put up all the LFLs on your property that you want!

So yeah, Little Free Libraries are fun. They can create excitement and collaboration in the community. It’s just not a catch-all solution to things like access and funding of brick-and-mortar libraries and the services they provide. And they shouldn’t be. They’re a different animal.

 

 

A Little Rant on Little Free Libraries (aka probably an unpopular post)

Update to my post – 16 July 2014

Within a two mile radius of my little corner of Brookfield, Wisconsin there are four Little Free Libraries. I like the concept: People sharing books. People creating a collection. People encouraging reading. Targeting under-served areas/people. Those are good things. But it’s not a library. And I feel guilty and elitist for saying it. I mean, how could you not love this?

little free libraries. A Creative Commons-licensed photo via Flickr user davidsilver: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/11783413894/

little free libraries. A Creative Commons-licensed photo via Flickr user davidsilver: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/11783413894/

There are, of course, benefits to the little free libraries movement. Lane Wilkinson discusses this in his What can we learn from DIY libraries post and Tara Murray writes about it in her post, Truly DIY Libraries.

Do I feel like a little free library is seriously encroaching on a “real” library’s mission and objectives? No.

But here’s what I do worry about: the general public’s perception and the lumping together of little free libraries and actual “real” public libraries.

“Hey look, any volunteer can create a library!”

“Why do we need trained professionals when an 17-year old Eagle Scout has put together such a nice library?”

“Why do we need our tax money to go to something that can be done for FREE?”

“With these Little Free Libraries, we can just cut grants to libraries and use that money elsewhere.” (oh wait, that’s already being proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan.)

A library is not a wooden box. Above all, a library is:

  • a place both physical and virtual
  • a place to get help
  • a place to get information
  • a place to collaborate
  • a place to learn
  • a place to socialize

A handcrafted box of books – no matter how lovely (and many are!) – is not a library. It’s an open bookdrop. A library is more than just that.

The Library in Lego Form (aka the absolute last post I will write about Lego librarians)

Lego public library

Lego public library

It’s the summer of Lego Librarians! When I created my own Lego Librarian personalities, I didn’t quite imagine the wave it would create. People love Lego blocks. People love librarians. When you combine the two, you get an irresistible cultural mash-up.

The original post generated over 36,000 views and appeared on sites such as The Huffington Post, Flavorwire, Neatorama, Book RiotMyModernMet, Trendhunter, and Nerd Approved. Evidently it also took the country of Hungary by storm, as I had several thousand views from this one site alone.

After I acquired the official Lego librarian (I got it for cheap on eBay, rather than guessing among the unmarked packages at the Lego store), I decided that the Lego librarian needed a library!

Now I had a few of my own Lego pieces, but I had to ask for donations from co-workers. I also eBayed a few cheap building blocks…and voilà. I started building the Lego library. Just like the real library, there’s something for everyone: books, periodicals, technology, events. All walks of life are represented: young and old, well to do and not-so-much, people making a transition, and people on the edges of society. Here’s the local public library in Lego form…hope you enjoy it!

…and here’s a short movie created with the Lego Movie app: