Multnomah County Library: Northwest Library – 2/21/2013

2013-02-21 10.25.02I hate to admit this, but breakfast was my real motivation for visiting the Northwest Library. No, the library wasn’t serving breakfast (Though wouldn’t that be cool – don’t even get me started on my feelings about the possibilities for food in libraries and – I could go ON and ON…) but a lovely cafe around the corner was. After having eaten more than my fill of huevos rancheros – who doesn’t love salsa in the morning? – I figured I should pop my head into this small branch library. It was totally worth it!

Why? you ask. Yes, the building is cute and the library displays were heartwarming in their neighborliness but what really made the detour was one of their window displays:2013-02-21 10.25.45

I’d heard of libraries doing programs for kids using Legos before and thought it was a neat idea, but my interest stopped there. Well, this window display was all it took to rekindle my excitement! Hello, Flying Murder Ship!  Yes, the title is maybe a tad violent, but frankly, I don’t care.  Even now, a few weeks later, imagining those excited kids looking up to see their Lego creations so prominently displayed makes me all warm and fuzzy.  Yay for library programming and for the Northwest Branch Library for making my morning!

To visit the Northwest Library’s displays yourself, check out their website at


San Francisco Public Library: Main Library – 2/7/2013

Wow y’all, where to begin?  I recently visited the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL)’s main library and it totally exceeded my expectations.  In fact, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

2013-02-07 16.39.13Unlike some other amazing libraries, San Francisco’s main library has a pretty drab exterior (at least I think so – their website extolls the beaux arts style marble…).  Thankfully, what’s waiting inside is anything but ordinary.  The library, which was finished in 1996, is built around a central atrium that is five stories tall and topped with a huge skylight.  I was initially concerned that all this open space might make the library really noisy, but it doesn’t.  Instead, the open center and unusual walkways manage to create a sense of shared experience across the building’s different floors.

This integration is even more noteworthy given the diverse group of library users I observed while walking around.  People speaking a variety of languages, sporting an array of styles, and engaging in a range of activities (carrying a whole box of Rice Krispies?  painting your nails?  yes, I saw you at SFPL on Thursday) were all coexisting in the library in a way that should truly make San Francisco proud.

In addition to the built environment’s lovely features, the library is home to numerous awesome collections.  These include (among others): the Filipino American Center, the Gay and Lesbian Center, and the Chinese Center.  I hate to admit it, but I missed all of these.  In my defense, I was distracted.  Distracted by the many walls that are decorated with compelling displays on subjects ranging from ranging from botanical drawings to Russian cubism in children’s books to the history of Wimmen’s Comix.  What can I say – I’m a sucker for a good display.

The two areas that I did manage to check out were the library’s Art, Music, and Recreation Center where I browsed through their collection vintage posters and LP’s and the San Francisco History Center.  The History Center houses (among many other things) a collection of totally awesome-looking vintage city maps and giant wooden globe.  Rather than representing the whole planet, though, the globe shows only San Francisco, but in a sphere – it’s pretty bizarre.  I also spent longer than is probably normal inspecting several of the walls throughout the library that have been papered with old catalog cards (sadly no good photos of this, but I promise it’s as awesome as it sounds) which were utterly absorbing.

While description above doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the SFPL’s main library has to offer, I hope it’s encouraged you to check it out for yourself.  If only because I missed their zine collection and would love a travel buddy!

For more information about visiting the main branch of San Francisco Public Libraries, visit their webpage at

Seattle Public Library: Central Library – 1/30/2013

I’ll warn you now: this entry will be completely biased.  Why?  Because I’m a huge fan of Seattle and I’m totally in love with the Central Library!  That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not.  I bring up the library every chance I can – so much so that I’ve started to hear my friends (not-so-subtly) mumble “get a room” under their breaths.

What can I say?  No matter how you feel about the exterior of this eleven story contemporary structure (opened May 2004), inside it is pure library magic.

2013-01-25 14.09.22Visitors entering the library through the revolving door on Fifth Street will find themselves in the library’s main atrium filled with general seating, a cafe, and shelves of new and fiction books to browse.  While there are quite a few books on this level, they’re just a taste of the library’s collection which boasts more than one million items.

As you make their way up through the libraries many floors, you may be struck by the neon yellow hue in the elevators and on the escalators or by the intense red-ness of basically everything on the fourth floor (I have no pictures of this, since taking pictures in an all red space = hard, but there are some good ones on-line).

You might also stop off to use one of the library’s more than 400 public computers.  If you do, and if you’re anything like me, you might feel your heart fluttering at the sight of people from all walks of life gathering together to find, share, and create information.

Most of the Central Library’s non-fiction collection is arranged in a ‘book spiral’ that enables visitors to walk through the whole of the Dewey Decimal system along a series of ramps.  I have to admit that when I first heard about this feature it sounded a-mazing, but when I actually walked through it, I was underwhelmed.  Maybe I had built it up too much in my head…

The top public floor of the library (10th floor – the 11th is all offices) is mostly open and is designated as a reading area, but it is also home to the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room.  2013-01-25 14.18.41

If you have a chance to make it to this special collection, I recommend that you take advantage of it!  First, the clear shelves (pictured right) also act as the walls of the collection room, which is genius.  And second, the collection its self is awesome and includes a ton of great old books and lovely-smelling vintage newspaper clippings about all aspects of life in the early days of the Pacific Northwest.  I particularly enjoyed the collection of vintage yearbooks.

By now you’ve probably had enough of my ode to this library, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some additional features that I didn’t have a chance to check out: 1. the Children’s area on the first floor 2. the Aviation history collection on the seventh floor and 3. the music and performance art practice rooms on the eighth floor (totally amazing, right?)

If I haven’t scared you away and you’re still interested in learning more about the Seattle Public Libraries Central Library, check out their virtual tour or their website at:

Zine Archive and Publishing Project – 01/26/2013

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I’ve wanted to visit the Zine Archive and Publishing Project (ZAPP) ever since I heard the words “zine archive” for the first time in July.  Yes you heard that right folks this is an actual archive for zines!  After much too long I finally had the chance to visit and tour ZAPP as a part of ALA Midwinter 2013.  I don’t have a lot of photos (and the ones I did get are LOW quality), but I can assure you that this archive, which was founded in 1996 and which contains more than 20,000 zines, does not disappoint.

The archive contains zines of all genres and many rare items including early copies of Giant Robot and Bitch (!!!) from when they were still being disseminated in zine form.  While the archive space is small, it invites visitors to linger over the diverse collection – most of which is directly accessible to all visitors.  In addition to simply archiving zines, ZAPP also provides space and materials for folks who want to try to create their own zines.

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Visiting ZAPP was awesome and well worth the wait.  My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to explore!  I’m also pretty bummed that I don’t live in Seattle (this will likely become a recurring theme) because if I did, I would totally volunteer here.

To learn more about ZAPP, check out their website: