Comparison of Vancouver and Seattle public libraries

A welcome at Vancouver airport!
A welcome at Vancouver airport!

Last month I travelled half the world away to Vancouver for the Special Libraries Association (SLA) annual conference.

After the conference I stayed on in Vancouver for a little while, and then travelled across the border into the United States to visit Oregon and Washington. As I expect is pretty normal for a librarian in a foreign country, I wanted to see the public libraries of the cities I visited.

Both Vancouver and Seattle public libraries were incredible buildings. The only thing I have seen in this country that comes close is the Library of Birmingham. Inside, they were both quite similar in style, with pops of bright colour, but I have to say Seattle Public Library just snuck into the lead over Vancouver.

The Vancouver Public Library resembles a high-tech Roman colosseum (I didn’t get a picture of the exterior, sorry). The entrance just beckons you in.

Vancouver library entrance
Vancouver library entrance

Seattle Library utilised the light and the view from the upper floors. It felt more open, whereas Vancouver library felt quite closed in with low ceilings especially on the ground floor – a contrast to all the glass and light in the foyer area with cafes and shops. It’s still an impressive place, and well worth seeing.

Inside Seattle public library
Inside Seattle public library

During our visit to Seattle Public Library we noticed the auditorium, where they were screening the USA v Portugal football match in.


It was a good atmosphere, and a lot of people popped in while using the library. It was the best of both worlds – I got to nose around a library, and the fella got to watch some of the World Cup.

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