The Central Library Expands Hours, and 20-Plus Things to Do There

The Central Library at dusk
The Central Library at dusk

Tourists stop by all the time, but when was the last time you visited The Seattle Public Library’s internationally acclaimed downtown location?

If it’s been a while, we have good news: Starting Wednesday, Jan. 18, the Central Library will be open two nights a week until 8 p.m. (with the exception of the Faye G. Allen Children’s Center on Level 1, which will continue to close at 6 p.m. each evening). The Central Library’s nonfiction book spiral, located on Levels 6 through 9, also recently expanded its hours. It’s now open seven days a week, during all Central Library open hours.

If you need a refresher on what to explore at the Central Library, you can follow one of our self-guided tours, including this kids’ tour for families, chock full of fun facts. And below are floor-by-floor highlights.

Map from the kids tour of the Central Library
Map from the kids’ tour of the Central Library

Level 1, Fourth Avenue entrance

After you enter from Fourth Avenue, you can learn about the Rem Koolhaas-designed building at the displays in the lobby, then peruse the Peak Picks display (near the circulation desk) for the hottest new titles. Make sure to admire Ann Hamilton’s floor artwork of raised text in 11 languages.

Look down at the Peak Picks display to see the Ann Hamilton floor art
Look down at the Peak Picks display to see the Ann Hamilton floor art

Bring the children in your life to the spacious Faye G. Allen’s Children’s Center and cozy up with a book under the twinkling lights. Kids can browse books, play on filtered computers, and look for colorful artwork such as Mandy Greer’s Babe the Blue Ox. Or check out a Read-Aloud book, which comes with a built-in MP3 player.

Also on Level 1, use one of the two courtesy phones near the LEAP Lab, which coordinates accessible Library programs, services and assistive resources.

Consider timing your visit for one of the Microsoft Auditorium’s exceptional author events or monthly concerts (next up, on Jan. 21, is poet Gabrielle Bates).

Level 3, Fifth Avenue entrance, Living Room

Stock up on wonderful literary-themed gifts and gently used books at the FriendShop, near the entrance. Every purchase supports The Friends of The Seattle Public Library. The gift shop uses compact shelving, so the store closes into a cube and locks up when closed.

Find your next read at the Reader Services Desk, in the center of the large Living Room space, where a Library staff member can give you customized book recommendations. Drop into a Living Room chair for a quick chapter.

Print a story or poem at the Short Story Dispenser, near the yellow escalators to Level 5; read the latest newspapers and magazines; and snap a selfie with the Hidden Octopus Mural.

Hidden Octopus Mural

Teens should stop by the Teen Center, an area reserved for young people to study, play games, read or just hang out.

The Teen Center on Level 3
The Teen Center on Level 3

Level 4, the Red Floor

Immerse yourself in vibrant color on the Red Floor, which houses the Library’s meeting spaces, and is one of the most photographed spaces in the Library.

Central Library's red floor
Don’t miss a visit to the Central Library’s iconic Red Floor (Level 4), one of the most photographed spaces at the Library.

See if you can identify all 13 shades of red used on the walls, ceilings, and stairs; spy on Level 3 through the screened windows; and read “Robert’s Rules of Order,” which is printed along the continuous hallway.

The stairs on the Red Floor that lead to the Mixing Chamber

Level 5, Charles Simonyi Mixing Chamber

You can reach Level 5 from the stairs from the Red Floor, or take the neon-yellow escalators up from Level 3.

Yellow escalators going to Level 5
Take the neon-yellow escalators from Level 3 to Level 5, the Mixing Chamber

Architect Koolhaas envisioned the Mixing Chamber as a trading floor for information, where Library staff and patrons “mix” to find answers to information needs.

Use one of the 100-plus public computers or the free ScanEZ to scan, fax, scan to audio, or translate documents; or ask a question at the QIC Information Center, the heart of the Library’s reference services.

Ask a question at the QIC Information Center
QIC Information Center fields questions in person, by email and through chat.

Levels 6 through 9: Walk the spiral and much more

Do a walking or rolling meditation on the wheelchair-accessible ramp that winds around and up (or down) the nonfiction book spiral on Levels 6 through 9, stopping to visit your favorite Dewey Decimal number.

During the Central Library design process, the design team built three full-scale mock-ups of the spiral to allow everyone from seniors to toddlers to those with disabilities to try moving up and down the gentle slope.

Nonfiction book spiral
The nonfiction spiral ramp is posted with large Dewey Decimal numbers

Make an appointment (two weeks in advance) to visit the ZAPP zine collection, located on Level 7 in the former Aviation Room.

ZAPP Zine collection
Examples from the ZAPP Zine collection, now open for viewing by appointment.

Browse our large cookbook collection on Level 8, and visit the current exhibit at the gallery.

Make an appointment to practice your musical instrument in one of two practice rooms, which come equipped with digital pianos.

Find the Instagram-friendly space-themed mural by Urban Artworks artist Will Schlough at Central Library and post a #SPLselfie.

Find the hidden space-themed mural by Urban Artworks artist Will Schlough at Central Library and post a #SPLselfie

On Level 9, learn about the Library’s map collections at the Maritz Map Room, or browse the genealogy collection, a large public collection for
family history and genealogical research in the Pacific Northwest.

You can look through the family name card catalog to find information about family names, or schedule a free appointment with one of our genealogy librarians to get help with research. Learn more at

Level 10: Reading Room, Seattle Room and more

Read with a view in the Betty Jane Narver Reading Room, a light-filled sanctuary with tables and chars to sit and work, study and read (and charge your devices, of course).

Make an appointment to research Northwest culture and history using a wealth of resource materials in the Seattle Room, now open by appointment on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Special Collections houses thousands of unique items from our region’s past, such as books, manuscripts, photographs, postcards, yearbooks and even restaurant menus.

Near the Seattle Room, peer out at the highest point in the Library, where you can see down to Level 3, as well as out to Elliott Bay.

The view down from Level 10
The view down from Level 10

As noted in our self-guided tour, from here, you can see that the building is designed as a series of stacked platforms, which are offset in a way that captures natural light and shade and offers unique views of the city.

More helpful Central Library links

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