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Seattle Public Library – Five Stars, and Five Secrets

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Recently, Library Journal.com posted the L J Index of Public Library Service 2010, rating 7,407 public libraries nationwide. 258 of these were designated as “Star Libraries”. In its category, the Seattle Public Library System (SPL) received Library Journal’s highest rating of five stars, ranking # 1 west of the Mississippi and # 3 nationwide.  Portland and San Francisco came in at # 11 and # 14 nationwide, respectively, and both received three stars.

In light of this terrific news, we thought it’d be a good time to revisit the SPL, with special emphasis on its crown jewel, the Central Library.  Located at 1000 Fourth Avenue, it is not only a marvel in glass, but in the breadth of services it offers.  From checking out books to booking a catered event, the Central Library is the last word in community service.

Ready for the Five Secrets?

 1.  If you’re into genealogy, you’ve hit a goldmine. Logging into the SPL website with your library card number gives you access to a number of databases. The Central Library itself is a repository for many genealogy items AND you can sit at a terminal and enjoy free access to ancestry.com

2.  On the first and third Mondays of each month, take a bag lunch to the Microsoft Auditorium on Level 1  (4th Avenue) and treat yourself to a “Thrilling Tale”, read aloud by a library staffer. This starts at noon and runs for about 50 minutes. This is one of a number of lunch hour programs that SPL does.

3.  Looking for a unique gift?  Level 3 near the Fifth Avenue entrance has a wonderful store called Friendshop, featuring items created by more than 65 Northwest artists. Along with library souvenirs, you can buy jewelry, cards and many other items at prices that won’t bust your budget.  This Friendshop link takes you to their website where you can even purchase online.

4.  They host a wide range of events, from the daylong “To Kill a Mockingbird” event held in September to a children’s Fall Festival afternoon of stories and craft making. Check their Calendar of Events link for readings, author visits, concerts, classes and more, which cover not only the Central Library but the entire 26-branch system. All of these events are free of charge.

5.  SPL has a free mobile app. Learn more about it here.

Library Journal is the field’s leading professional publication and developed its national rankings based on per capita statistics for library visits, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer use. This year’s ratings were based on 2008 data that libraries reported to the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.  SPL was one of only five libraries in the country in the expenditures of $30 million or higher category to receive a five-star rating.  The others included three public libraries in Ohio and the Denver Public Library.