As described in its 2011 Strategic Plan, “My Library: The Next Generation,” the Seattle Public Library is on the cusp of a major transformation in its evolution as an urban and cultural institution. While continuing to serve as a free repository of information and as a refuge open to all, the public library is poised to respond to the radical changes in how people use and access information and interact with one another in the city.
The central role that libraries play in Seattle’s neighborhoods as information hubs and community-gathering places is well established in the 26 branches that serve as neighborhood landmarks in Seattle. But the traditional model of the public library as an architectural type needs to be re-imagined in order to allow it to continue to serve as a true “third place” – where people can access information, participate in learning and education programs and engage with each other an their community. Rather than the archetypal image of the library as a “building for books,” this new “place to go” calls for a new spatial expression where patrons are welcomed and engaged intellectually and visually, and where information, ideas and stories are exchanged in environments that are both physical and virtual, imagined and real.