It’s certainly uncontaminated by cheese….

August 11, 2008 at 10:38 pm (libraries)

Here in Seattle, we have an interesting library system.

For a couple of years, the libraries shut down twice a year, because they didn’t have enough money to operate. (Not really relevant to this post, but I got screamed at  – literally – by a librarian at the branch closest to my house because – and I quote – “You reserved too many books. We had to put them on a shelf of their own!” Well, excuse me. I’m out of school. You’re closed for over two weeks. What’s a girl like me supposed to do during a time like that?!?! But I’m getting off the point here.)

Then, a year or so later, they opened the brand new $165 MILLION dollar Central Library (the bonds approved by voters were approved only for building, not for, you know, RUNNING THE SYSTEM). The thing is pretty much a modern art piece. It’s cool to look at – once or twice. After that, it starts to look like an eyesore. Inside, it’s neat-o… until you actually go to look for a book.

For one thing, the non-fiction is housed in what they call “The book spirals”. These go up several floors, but rather than switch from floor to floor via an elevator or stairs, you do so by merely walking the spiral. It slowly goes up – around and around. (This, btw, is killer on my back. Great for wheelchairs, though.) This means, however, that getting from fiction to, say, the 800s in the nonfiction section is a PAIN. Oh, sure. There are elevators. And they’re confusing – what floor do I get out on? Once out, which way do I go?

The fiction section is housed on a floor which COULD be called the bottom, if you didn’t happen to notice the set of escalators that go down one more floor.The fiction section is, actually, pathetically small. It’s all a little too separated out. I have to figure out what section my book might possibly be in. Then, I can hope that it’s there: chances are, it isn’t. Chances are, you should have reserved that book and waited for it to come in.

But, there’s no lack of computers. TONS of computers, everywhere. Lots of comfy places to sit (and sleep – for some people, the Central library does double-duty as a day shelter).

Where are the books, though? I just ran across an article in The Stranger’s blog (the SLOG) that reminds me of why I don’t really use the library much. Why I’m willing to PAY to get my books, even though I work about a block and a half down from the library. Please read the comments on it, as well. Very interesting.



  1. C.B. James said,

    I had the same problem with the new main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. It’s a building the tourists love to visit, and it has a terrific cafe if you want to buy lunch, but God help you with finding a book you want. It’s not even fun to browse.

    I miss the old stacks.

  2. Trish said,

    We have a new library being built right down the road from us and while I never use the library (since I was in high school and wasn’t so diligent in returning my books and got my card revoked), there are some that I’d like to be able to check out instead of buying. Sounds like an interesting library you got there!

  3. Stephanie said,

    Sounds like the architects probably aren’t big readers!

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