A river runs through it: Renton Library. Photo credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Libraries used to be places where you went to check out a book or ask a question at the reference desk. Now, libraries are all that and much, much more, with a wide-ranging roster of activities, programs and events for kids and adults, as well as special attractions that make some of our local libraries bona fide tourist destinations. The best part? Everything is still free.
At the library, my two kids will gleefully collect a small mountain of books. It’s so empowering to pick out anything — anything! — they want and get to take it home. More than 460,000 people are Seattle Public Library cardholders, including my 5-year-old.
“We are in the part of the country where people really do value libraries and really do use their libraries,” says Julie Acteson, community relations and marketing director for the King County Library System.
Seattle voters approved a $196.4 million bond measure in 1998 that paid for a new downtown library, added four brand-new libraries and replaced or renovated 22 neighborhood branches.
In the King County Library System, a $172 million capital bond measure approved by voters in 2004 paid for 15 new libraries, 11 expanded libraries, 13 renovated libraries and two parking-expansion projects.
All this investment has added up to some showstopping libraries around the Puget Sound region. Find out which library is shaped like a boat, which has a rooftop garden and which offers you a view of salmon swimming underneath it. Building a day around a library visit is a good way to explore a new neighborhood — and to encourage your kids to love books.
Editor’s note: Elisa Murray contributed to this article, which was originally published in 2017 and was updated in May 2019.