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Place of learning, place of dreams : a history of the Seattle Public Library
Marshall, John Douglas.
Publication Date:
Publication Information:
Seattle : University of Washington Press, c2004.
Physical Description:
vii, 192 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
General Note:
"A McLellan book."

"In association with the Seattle Public Library Foundation."


Call Number
Material Type
Item Holds
027.4797 MARSHAL Book

On Order



Seattle Public Library's dazzling new Central Library, designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, prompted international notice even before the doors opened to this $159 million showplace. Yet Seattle Public Library's new prominence came after more than a century of tumult with many heroic struggles, from its itinerant existence in a pioneer boom town to its wired wonders in a world technology center.

In Place of Learning, Place of Dreams John Douglas Marshall recounts the fascinating stories behind the books and buildings of Seattle Public Library. The suspicious fire that destroyed the library's home in the historic Yesler mansion and led to a surprise rescue by Andrew Carnegie in the early 1900s. The library's efforts through world wars, earthquakes, epidemic, and Depression. The Red Scares that claimed the jobs of two loyal library employees. The library's stocking of a graphic sex education book that sparked a controversy reaching all the way to the U.S. Senate. The city book club born at Seattle Public Library and copied across the country. The landmark "Libraries for All" program to remake the entire Seattle Public Library system with a $196 million bond issue, the largest in American library history.

Marshall also profiles many intriguing people who enlivened Seattle Public Library and its contributions to the city. Librarian Charles Wesley Smith withstood a charge that he set the Yesler mansion fire. Sculptor George Tsutakawa's first fountain, for Seattle's Central Library, led to scores of renowned fountains around the globe. Yesler branch librarian James Welch rescued a dying library in a black neighborhood with the help of activist Millie Russell. And maverick architect Rem Koolhaas won his important Seattle commission after a startling turnabout by library board members during a visit to Europe.

Place of Learning, Place of Dreams tells the human story of a beloved Seattle institution with drama, honesty, and flair.

Author Notes

John Douglas Marshall was book critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . His previous publications include Reconciliation Road , an award-winning family memoir, and Volcano: The Eruption of Mount St. Helens , a national best-seller.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Here is that rarest of public library histories, one that is both honest and readable. Marshall, book critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, tells the story of Seattle's great public library, warts and all, from the founding meeting of the Seattle Library Association in a frontier village to the high-risk appointment of current city librarian Deborah Jacobs. His account of the arrival of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus to explain his design for the new building is as compelling as the story of the Rev. J.P Derwent Llwyd who went to Scotland to put the touch on Andrew Carnegie for an extra $20,000 for furnishings after the tycoon had already donated $200,000 to build the library's monumental Carnegie building. Marshall reports how one embattled city librarian, the young Ron Dubberly, now a popular consultant, "assumed the bureaucrat's defensive posture" in a book-discarding controversy; nor does the author shy away from discussing the tumultuous years under Liz Stroup. The Jacobs chapter, replete with the successful bond campaign to fund the new building, is just as candid. Budding library administrators and others will find plenty of lessons in this beautifully illustrated volume.AJohn Berry, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.