Here’s what libraries do in Seattle

Here’s what libraries do in Seattle

In case you haven’t browsed the Seattle stacks, we have fantastic libraries, and it’s not just about the architecture of the central branch designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus.

In 2018, Forbes employee Panos Mourdoukoutas had some problems with an incredibly hot attitude (which has since been deleted): Amazon and Starbucks have made libraries superfluous. But with the multitude of services offered by the Seattle Public Libraries – from streaming videos to entering a museum – the library could likely replace Amazon, not the other way around.

Seattle’s high-tech culture offers our libraries a range of services that go much deeper than many non-library users believe. Here are just a few underrated services the Seattle Public Library (SPL) offers in addition to the standard book register, internet access, and free hangout. You don’t even have to leave your home for many of them.

Audio books and e-books

It turns out that even after you buy Amazon’s proprietary e-book reader, you can stop giving Amazon money for books: SPL has a library of thousands of e-books for you to check out via Overdrive, including new books and bestsellers. The books are available in Kindle format, in the e-pub and through the library’s e-reader app, Libby.

You can leave (or upgrade) this Audible account. Overdrive also offers a wide variety of audiobooks.

learn languages

An SPL card gives users access to Mango, an online language learning tool used by libraries and educational institutions alike. It usually costs around $ 20 a month for individual users, but it’s free at the library.

Signing Savvy, an American sign language learning program, is also available to SPL users for free.

Museum admission

Through the library, Seattleites can visit major museums like the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Popular Culture (formerly EMP), Museum of Flight, and Museum of History – even the Woodland Park Zoo – for free, provided you book the specific museums on the date Ahead. Your SPL card gives you access to the museum pass, which can be reserved up to 30 days before a visit. (New passports are issued every evening at 9 p.m.)

Newspaper archives

Read a Seattle Times article from the day you were born without subscribing to an archive service. The Times archives are available online without the need for microfiche expertise. SPL also has extensive Seattle PI archives.

With an SPL card, you have access to MoPOP and other museums. Shutterstock

Stream video

In this now infamous Forbes article, Mourdoukoutas argued that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu helped make library video services obsolete. But SPL is basically Netflix already. Library badge holders can stream video through Kanopy, Hoopla, and Access at home. Hoopla limits the number of users to 20 videos per month, and Kanopy, which focuses on classic and indie films, has a limit of five videos. Access Video broadcasts educational content from PBS, BBC, HBO and others without restriction.

Stream music

Cardholders have a few options for streaming music. Perhaps the coolest is the Playback Music Collection, which features a rotating selection of local music selected by local musicians and experts. The lineup changes every year, and you can download songs and keep them forever.

Hoopla can also stream music (also via a smartphone app), although the limit is limited to 15 albums per month. With Freegal Music, which has an extensive mainstream catalog, you can download and save five songs a week or stream three hours of music a day – again either in your browser or via the smartphone app.

Internet hotspots

The library doesn’t just have WiFi. For those who need to access the internet at home or on the go, hotspots are available to check out. Just put one on hold – just like a book – and after you’ve picked it up, it’s yours for 21 days.

Practice room

Did you know that you can practice piano in the downtown library? There are two reservable music practice rooms, each with a keyboard, although they are otherwise BYO instruments.

Academic databases

If after graduation you require JSTOR for loss or just need access to academic writing, SPL membership comes with a Proquest membership in addition to other research databases.

Community events

The library isn’t just about finding a place to host your own event or hang out. SPL has its own impressive series of events.

In addition to workshops such as technical certifications, tax assistance, media literacy resources, and citizenship classes, SPL offers touring writers, adult stories (in addition to the old library standard for children’s stories), panel discussions, and movie nights.


In case you thought Starbucks could replace the library, if coffee is needed for your library meetings, the downtown library has a coffee shop called Chocolati Café. While this costs money, it can give you a boost while browsing through all of the public resources available.

1000 4th Ave., Seattle, WA 98104