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May 23, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Happy birthday to Seattle Central Library, many happy returns

Ten years ago, the chatter about Seattle’s new Central Library, at 1000 Fourth Ave., was the cool house designed by co-architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus in a joint-venture partnership with local architects LMN, led by John Nesholm.

Seattle Central Library (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Central Library
(Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

The building was a bold departure for downtown Seattle, and that was part of its appeal. Very quickly the thought came to mind, oh, yes indeed, it is a library and a whole lot more.

This anniversary, May 23, offers a full day of fun from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with all manner of events, 10th anniversary tote bags, and multiple appearances of free mini cupcakes distributed by local dignitaries.

Long forgotten is that the library opened, in all its glorious splendor, to reduced hours. Caught up in municipal budget woes, the Central Library was open 58 hours a week, down from 70 hours. Any inventory of a decade of activity at the Central Library is all about numerical superlatives.

Andra Addison, Seattle Public Library communications director, provides some fun facts. These leap out:

  • Total number of books and materials checked out in the last 10 years from the Central Library: 14.2 million
  • Total number of in-person visits to the Central Library in the last 10 years: over 19 million
  • Total number of Internet sessions on Library computers: more than 3.5 million
  • Total number of questions answered at the Central Library in the last 10 years: 5.2 million.

The Central Library’s personality changes from floor to floor, reflecting all of the services, technologies and resources available. The library even hosted gatherings for patrons to watch Seahawks’ playoff games and the Super Bowl. And the library has a viewing license in hand for 2014 World Cup soccer matches.

The space I have enjoyed over the years is the Microsoft Auditorium. Addison reports the library has hosted more than 13,729 authors, educational classes, reading programs and other public events over the past 10 years. All free programs, some that attracted overflow crowds up to 600 patrons.

Congratulations all around.

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