The Seattle Athenaeum

A clue, a hunt … a library. Or Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum, to be exact.

What’s an Athenaeum? I didn’t know I needed to be a part of this community I didn’t know existed – but now I am, and it’s pretty incredible.

Folio Seattle Athenaeum

(Photo was taken after they issued me the membership card.)

Yesterday afternoon, Wilson presented me with a card, which contained a riddle, which led me, after some confusion and guesswork (no, it was not a puppy) to the gorgeous old YMCA building downtown… which is the location of the new Seattle Athenaeum. Totally a nerd gift, I know – but what can I say, the guy knows the way to my heart! I soon learned from my grand tour that an athenaeum is a community where bibliophiles pool their resources (books) so everyone can enjoy them. Apparently the tradition goes back thousands of years (started by the ancient Romans, no surprise), and the first one in the U.S. was begun by Ben Franklin. Seattle’s Athenaeum, which just opened last week, is the 20th in the nation and the first one to open since the late 1800s. Such a cool story and community, right? 

One of the reading rooms – I was too distracted by the books to take very many photos.

Browsing the shelves, it was fascinating to see the collections donated by UW professors and community figures (after browsing the books donated by a Classics professor, I feel severely under-read). In addition to being shelved alphabetically by author, the books are also organized by collection, so you can take a glimpse into all the books that shaped the ideas, teaching, and policy of the patron. Definitely not your typical public library. Drinking it all in, I now have the urge to start my own collection and donate it when I’m old and gray. Now I just need to do something of significance so people will actually want my books.

I’m so thrilled to be a part of this community – Wilson really hit it out of the park with such an unexpected, thoughtful surprise! Now I just need to not be in school so I actually have time to read all these books.

Read more about the tradition in this article by LitReactor.
Here’s a writeup of the Seattle Athenaeum in SeattleMag.


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