This Stunning American Library Is the Height of Whimsy squib

Philippe Ruault, Courtesy of OMA

You don’t have to look far to find evidence of the variety of visitors who visit Seattle’s Central Library. Located on the basement floor, amidst a globe-spanning collection of DVDs, is a work from artist Ann Hamilton which allows visitors to walk all over on 556 first lines of books, etched into the hardwood floor in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Yes, it’s a small detail in a large building, one that could literally get lost underfoot. But it’s embellishments like these that make Seattle Public Library-Central the latest selection for The Daily Beast’s monthly series, The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries.

Opened in 2004, the Seattle Central Library represented a turning point for Seattle. Funded via a $196.4 million bond measure, called “Libraries for All,” (With a 20-million-dollar assist from Bill Gates), all the libraries in the area were able to undergo some kind of update or expansion. However, it was the Central Library, which had outgrown its previous digs first opened in 1972, that was given an eleven-story, 362,987 square-foot makeover. Which isn’t of course to say that previous iterations weren’t impressive. The library was once housed in the former home of the city’s richest resident, Henry Yesler before burning down, and a Carnegie Library occupied the spot until the 1970s.

After fifteen years in her job, Valerie Wonder, downtown regional manager, has seen the kind of joy having a functioning library has given the community. It’s a third place, aka a hangout that isn’t work or home, and where buying a latte isn’t the price of admission.

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