Hidden Gems

While attending the Key4Women luncheon last week at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle, I elected to park in the lot below the Seattle Central Library.  The Library was conveniently located to the W Hotel (translation, no up or down hills in heels required) and I suspected I would make a quicker exit by avoiding the hotel valet line after lunch.

I also thought it would give me a good excuse to check out the Library which opened in 2004.  Admittedly, I’m not much of a “library customer”.  I’ve had a Sony eReader for a couple of years which I am devoted to, so much so that the only books which get added to my personal library are all signed by the authors.  However, I am a taxpayer and wanted to see what my money helped to build.
My first impression was a negative one created by the over-abundance of “small” parking spots (when you don’t even have room to label them “compact” – it’s truly a SMALL spot) too small for even my modest size car.

Next I took the elevator to the very top floor and thought I would just work my way down.  Let me just go on the record as saying that intense, neon yellow-green is NOT a color I would deem “user-friendly”. It’s harsh, garish,  hard on the eyes and does not flatter ANYONE’S skin tone!  It’s also the ONLY “color” in the entire building.

The exterior is sort of interesting with all the glass and steel, but the appeal wears off quickly.  As I walked around the top floor and made my way down level after level of stairs, my every step echoed. I was continually struck by the coldness of the building – not the ambient temperature, just the ambiance or lack thereof.  Cold, square, steel handrails; stark, hard, utilitarian surfaces everywhere; nothing cozy or inviting anywhere.

The restroom stall doors are also “small” and only cover “the essentials” no doubt to discourage illegal activities.

The large magazine and newspaper area did not seem daunting in the least to the two dozen plus citizens desperately in need of a bath who were “reading” there so perhaps it’s just me who finds the space uninviting.

Sure, you can read tons of periodicals.  You can check out a wide variety of books; hardcover, paperbacks and even audio books.  You can even check out popular DVDs which can help stretch your entertainment budget.  I was about to leave thinking this was about all the positives I could find in our “landmark”  when there, at the bottom of the sickly yellow-green lighted escalator was “FriendShop”.

In a few shelves full of well-chosen merchandise my entire experience turned positive.  It was more than the great selection of interesting gift items (I bought 4 gifts), it was the friendly, helpful VOLUNTEER staff who were working the floor assisting customers.  Aljene, a local Seattle artist whose items I was buying was among the warm and welcoming team who changed my “customer experience” in the Seattle Central Library.

The moral of the story of course is that your people make all the difference.  Even people not on your payroll can make a positive impact on your business.  Great service can overcome challenging parking,  even a prison-like setting,  and create a positive “customer experience”.


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3 Responses to “Hidden Gems”

  1. Klem Says:


    I so agree, the library is overly spacious making it acoustically inadequate for a library. It feels and looks cold but the people make up for it.

    Great observations.

  2. Lisa Lee Says:

    Thank you Sunny for taking the time to recognize Aljene, she is one of our 30 volunteers who serve guests in the FriendShop at the Central Library. She has been with us several years and as you saw, is a dedicated volunteer.

  3. Library Patron Says:

    Also, as someone who enjoys eBooks, you may want to check out the library’s digital collection: you can get downloadable eBooks for your Sony Reader (or audiobooks for your iPod), from a large and growing selection. And there are wonderful librarians – not far from that friendshop – who will provide you with the kind of guidance as a reader that you can barely imagine getting even in a good bookstore – they’ve even made a LIST of suggestions just for me, based on the kinds of things I like, and are always very welcoming and personable, not to mention really knowing their books – none of those blank stares like you’ll get at Barnes & Noble. So I agree – excellent customer service (when you can find it in that maze) can really help to make a cold and forbidding building into a warm library.


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