The UW Library

Recently I wrote a post about the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington here in Seattle. I didn’t want to take away from their glory by including information about a little side trip we took to the UW Library. It’s amazing and deserves its own focus.

I absolutely adore libraries. Everything about them. They house knowledge and truth. My mother once told me as a child that when you enter a library you can go anywhere in the universe. To this day, I get butterflies whenever I go into one. I love how each one has its own personality, and I particularly love the ones that have their own intimate little nooks and crannies.

This was my first time entering the UW library. I don’t know. I just assumed you couldn’t go in there unless you were a student. But we were allowed in. Granted, we wouldn’t be able to check anything out, but it was the ambience I was looking for. And the UW library is chock full of ambience.

The first place we went was the reading room in the Suzallo Library, where I took this picture.


Wow. I mean… wow. I felt smarter just walking in there. The 65-foot-high vaulted ceiling alone took my breath away. The unique leaded glass windows, I learned, include the shapes of 28 Renaissance watermarks that one can see in a book that the library bought back in 1923.

The chandeliers are absolutely gorgeous, too. Especially the ones in the shape of globes. And the top of the oak bookcases that line the walls are carved in the shapes of native plants. I love that the books in this room are shelved randomly, “to encourage exploration and discovery.”  I’ve never heard of a library doing this. Pretty darned cool.

Near the grand stairway (which is, indeed, grand), there’s one of the biggest books in the world. It’s called Bhutan:A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom, and believe me when I say that it’s not something that you’d just toss on your book shelf. Opened up, the thing is at least 6 feet long. They have it displayed under glass, and the librarians turn a page about once a month.

We also checked out the Allen Library, which was added on in 1990. It includes a really cool art installation called “Raven Brings Light to This House of Stories”. Each raven is carrying symbols from other cultures of the world. There’s also a large prayer wheel that a local artist created as a gift for the Dalai Lama, who then turned around and donated it to the university. (I just love that man.)

I wish I had looked more closely at the brochure that the nice gentleman at the information desk gave me, because we missed a few neat things, like the cast of a 28-foot Pleistocene era crocodile, and the statues along the façade of the building of notable contributors to learning and culture, including my personal hero, Ben Franklin.

Yay! An excuse to go back!


I’m proud to say that my book is available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition!

4 thoughts on “The UW Library

  1. Angiportus

    1000% about libraries! I recall when I came here abt 40 years back, the 1st time I walked into the Suzzallo, I was so flabbergasted by the architecture I almost didn’t remember the books. Even though it isn’t my type of architecture at all, It was impressive..
    There is or used to be a restroom in there with fossils in the walls. As for the grand stairway, you’ll notice that the half which is well-lit is more worn than the dark one. Folks see it first, or something.
    The crocodile is on the ground level of the Allen building as you come in.
    If you go to the geology building [the map can tell you where it is], there are interesting displays of beautiful rock types. You may also find interesting cartoons on the doors of professors in many buildings, and if you are quiet and don’t bother anyone, you probably won’t have any problems.
    Just wait till you see the Renton library–it is half building and half bridge. Really. No, it doesn’t lift, but downstream by the airport there is hydraulic vertcal lift which is deployed when the river comes into spate. When that happens, it’s a grand time to visit the library. Which I helped save.
    Some years back, it fell from city ownership to the hands of the county system, which was then run by a man more interested in building the biggest system in the country than providing quality for the users, or paying any attention to the users at all; he planned to move it into a much smaller building in a worse location. It was a bad time to be in front of the fan. City council meetings were spoken at, letters were written, an initiative was set up and when the vote happened it was overwhelmingly to stay where we were. I was at the home of one of the councilmembers when the results came in, and our cheers must have been heard clear over in Seattle.
    Then came the second struggle, for the bldg we had needed remodeling even so, and the bastards still managed to make it smaller than it had been–in a growing city that was 5th largest in the state. We did our best, but the city council was dominated by idiots who wouldn’t stand up to the county system’s plans; even the mayor just sat on his hands, only bothering to do an editorial for the local fishwrap that was somehow 2 pages of absolutely nothing. So now we have something that looks like a big dark lounge (oppressive black ceiling] with fewer books even if they are all new, and it smells not too good. But the view of the river outside is still wonderful.

  2. lyn sutton

    Wow! The ultimate sanctuary. That’s how I view a library. A refuge from ignorance and boredom. A safe haven from the decay of time that robs us of our histories, cultures and languages. A sacred space for the mind and soul to reflect, grow and rise.

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