Seattle Public Library

Spent Monday at Seattle Public Library. More about the meeting later. Here is my quick tour of SPL and click here to see all the photos.

The building is huge, close to 400,000-square-feet, and reminds me of some of the buildings at Epcot. It has a very industrial feel to it both inside and out.

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Upon entering the library I was immediately greeted by a nice woman at an information kiosk who was nice enough to let me take her picture.

The building is 11 floors high and connected by a series of escalators which do not go to all floors and do not necessarily take you back down. So navigating the building was a little confusing but in addition to the prominent escalators there are stairs and elevators and I understand from the staff that they are working on better signs to help people get around.

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The inside of the building is very open and makes great use of the natural lighting. Suprisingly the building was also quiet. I noticed very little noise even though the building was full of people using computers and reading. On the 10th floor there are what appear to be pillows in the ceilings to help absorb the sounds.

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Speaking of computers there were over 400 public computers located throughout the building. The largest lab contained 148 Internet PCs. SPL uses a similar reservation system with a one-hour time limit that we use at PLCMC. They also offer a one time guest card but there is a $15 fee for the 3 month guest card and $55 for a one year non-resident card.

SPL is not CIPA compliant. They have filters on their childrens’ PCs but not on the adult PCs. All adult PCs have a privacy screen to prevent anyone not using the PC from viewing the screen. As a result of not being CIPA compliant, SPL does not receive any federal grant money and they also do not receive any state funding.

The most fascinating feature that I saw was the Library Unbound art project which shows items in real-time as they are being checked out system-wide. The items are grouped into Dewey 100s and appear to be falling as they are checked out.

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Beware if you are afraid of heights! Here is a view looking down from the highest point accessible to the public in the library–the 10th floor to the 1st floor.

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The one thing that most library staff have asked about is the automated circulation system. It rocks! In 2005 nearly 8 million items circulated. Items are taken by conveyor belt from the book drop and the circulation desk to the circulation workroom on the 2nd floor where they pass through a computer that uses a radio signal to receive the RFID code and check the item in.

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Once the items are checked in they are routed to additional conveyor belts to be binned for other branches (separated into bins for requests and transit) or shelved on carts if they are staying at the Central Library.

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Staff in the workroom have to move the carts and bins as they fill up.

The offices were all just as beautiful and each desk is set up to be ergonomic for the user. All of the desks have adjustable heights. Here’s a view of telephone reference in action.
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I wish I could go back for the ALA conference. I did not get to spend enough time in this great city. Seattle combines all the best of Charlotte and the best of Asheville in one place!

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.

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