On May 23, the Seattle Public Library celebrates the 10th anniversary of its internationally famous Rem Koolhaas-designed downtown Central Library. A lot of Seattleites check out books, conduct research, look for jobs and dodge the rain at the downtown library, but I have lost track of the number of gawking tourists I have almost collided with as they gaze, heads up, into the latticework (a quarter of the library’s estimated two million annual visits are made by tourists).
True confession — I have never warmed up to the Koolhaas building. I am a Carnegie library kind of gal — my reading addiction was nurtured in one of Carnegie’s formal, single-story jewels. I do love the clean lines of my neighborhood’s Southwest branch (designed by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects) but in the downtown library on a gray and rainy day, I feel like I am sealed inside an aquarium.
What this building symbolizes is something I wholeheartedly endorse — the incredibly high level of support Seattle citizens give to their library system (as the citizens of King County have supported KCLS). You only have to ponder budget cuts and shuttered branch libraries around the country to realize what a good thing we have here.
Here’s a list of celebration highlights — all events are free:
Joshua Prince-Ramus: Ramus, co-architect of the building, talks about the influence the library has had on other buildings and public spaces. 7 p.m. Thursday May 15, Microsoft auditorium.
Authors Gone Wild: You don’t want to miss this. The Seattle7 Writers group is putting on a show, including music, entertainment, performances, author readings and more by Seattle7Writers and the band The Rejections (and Trailing Spouses). One promised sketch is “Cry Me a River: Worst Reviews from Amazon.com.”
Masters of Ceremony: Garth Stein, author of the best-selling “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” and Erik Larson, author of the runaway hit books “Devil in the White City” and “In the Garden of Beasts.” 7 p.m. Saturday, May 17, in the Norcliffe Foundation Living Room, Level 3.
Building the Central Library: a panel discussion on how plans for the downtown library were conceived and executed features Prince-Ramus; former City Librarian Deborah Jacobs; Sam Miller, partner at LMN Architects in Seattle; Gilbert Anderson, former Library Board member and emeritus member of the Library Foundation board of directors; and City Librarian Marcellus Turner. Moderator is Eric Liu, former library-board member and author. 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22, Microsoft auditorium.
Anniversary Day: An all-ages celebration takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 23. For information on this and other events, go to spl.org.
Poetry in the Skagit Valley: In other news, a not-to-be missed event is the annual Skagit River Poetry Festival: which kicks off May 15 and runs through May 18. The festival, which offers workshops, poetry readings and other events, will feature A+ authors and poets such as La Conner resident Tom Robbins, Seattle’s Sherman Alexie, poets Robert Haas, Mark Doty, Kwame Dawes, Susan Rich and new state poet laureate Elizabeth Austen, among others. The kickoff event, a fundraising dinner the evening of May 15, features Robbins and Alexie, which sounds like a ton of fun.
On Friday, featured poets and authors will run workshops for high school students in districts around the region; Saturday and Sunday events are open to the public. For a complete list of events, ticket prices and other information go to www.skagitriverpoetry.org.
Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Gwinn appears every Tuesday on TVW’s “Well Read,” discussing books with host Terry Tazioli (go to www.tvw.org/shows/well-read for archived episodes). On Twitter @gwinnma.