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Reading club wraps up

Seattle library inspirational

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The last program of the Summer Reading Club was held last week and once again it was a great success. This program would not be so successful were it not for the national, provincial and local support it receives. I would like to thank the Public Library Services Branch and the B.C. Library Association for providing all the reading logs, bookmarks, stickers and other incentives; the Royal Bank for the great reading medals; the Grocery Store and Marketplace IGA for the fabulous veggie and fruit trays.

This year we had 408 children attend the program, a whopping increase of 70 per cent over 2003. I think attendance increased because of the hot weather – everyone was looking for a reason to be inside a cool building!

From the author reading by Victoria Miles to the pirate games to the out-of —tune Harry Potter song to the costume party, children kept up reading, were able to see their friends, and had a wonderful time at the library, where " anything can happen when you read. "

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This weekend my husband and I went to Seattle to visit friends and I took advantage of the trip to visit the newly constructed central branch of the Seattle Public Library. If you haven’t heard about this remarkable building, take a look at the library’s Web site at www.spl.org. The building was designed by radical award-winning Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of the OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture, www.oma.nl) and opened May 23, 2004. It is truly a landmark building for Seattle, which also boasts defining buildings such as the Space Needle and the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project.

The library building is entirely encased in glass and seems to defy gravity, appearing to be crouching on the street. It has 11 levels, capacity for 1.4 million books and materials, provides 400 computers and offers wireless Internet access.

Other architects and critics refer to Koolhaas as a Deconstructivist, a Modernist and a Structuralist. As in other designs, he gives built form to ideas.

At the Seattle Public Library the design team looked at the functions of the library. They assessed the different uses of library space and grouped similar functions together. Five major spaces emerged and were then allotted a certain amount of space. A series of boxes was used to represent each area, was moved around and staggered in order to make best use of light and views. This actually gave the form to the building.

The interior of the building is minimalist, full of space and light. Most of the interior is concrete with brightly coloured walls, interesting flooring, ranging from bamboo to carpets silk-screened with close-up photos of plants to artist Ann Hamilton's Floor of Babble on the first floor. The floor is comprised of backward letters in foreign languages that record the first lines of the library's foreign-book collection.

The Books Spiral is an innovative approach to shelving non-fiction books. The problem in most libraries is that as the collection grows, the shelving is inadequate and the books must be moved to different areas. At Seattle Public Library, the non-fiction collection winds through three levels in a continuous run. It can be easily expanded, avoiding the problem of having to move books and materials to other locations and floors. The spiral allows users the freedom to move throughout the entire collection without depending on stairs, escalators or elevators.

Another striking aspect of the building – and there are many – is the innovative use of bold colour, be it on the escalators and elevators (chartreuse), the bright red on the meeting room level ( everything is red!), the bright pink, red, and black seats in the teen area, the pale blues walls, floors, doors, counters in the women’s washroom.

The library also has a 250 seat auditorium, a story hour room, a coffee cart, Friends of the Library gift shop, a special room for hearing, visually or physically impaired users, various meeting rooms, a training centre, music practice rooms, a performance art room and writers’ room.

So, if you are planning a trip to Seattle, be sure to stop at the library, visit the building and take in a tour if you have the time. It is an experience you will not forget.

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