Take a tour of the Central Library
We offer free guided group tours groups of 5-20 with two weeks advance notice. You can also arrange for a school tour for your class of K-12 students or other youth groups. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. We have several options for self-guided tours of the Central Library.
We offer free tours of the Central Library for groups of 5-20, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
To request a tour at least two weeks in advance, please complete the form below.
If you have a question or need help, or if your group has more than 20 people and/or you want a time outside normal tour hours, email us.
For groups of kids K-5 we can offer tools for self-guided tours of the Central Library, including a scavenger hunt. Teen groups can take a self-guided tour or request a brief tour of the Teen Center. We also offer workshops on using our online resources for teens.
Cell phone tour
The Central Library offers free self-guided cell phone tours! You control the pace, the content, and the order. Look for signs with this symbol posted in 19 locations throughout the Central Library and then call 206-686-8564. Enter the item number followed by the # key on your telephone. Brochures detailing the tour stops are available at the welcome desks inside the Library.
Please refrain from use of speakerphone. Standard cell phone company charges apply.
Elementary school tours
We welcome school visits to the Faye G. Allen Children's Center at the Central Library.
To make your visit a success, we recommend that you:
- Limit the size of your group to 60 students and include one adult per five students
- Remind students with Library cards to bring their card and know their PIN if they plan to check out books or other items
Email the Children's Center to schedule a visit, sign up your students for Library cards, or check room availability.
Floor by Floor Highlights
Level 0: Parking
The parking garage can be reached from Spring Street and has 143 stalls.
Level 1: Fourth Avenue
Book return/check out - Signup for a Library card or check out or return items on this floor. The 1,200-square-foot lobby also has self-checkout stations, public computers, an information desk and public pay phones.
Interactive Exhibit - The Central Library interactive exhibit offers a mix of material created specifically for this exhibit, including items from our special collections, StoryCorps interviews, and content from the Library's Twitter and Instagram feeds.
Faye G. Allen Children's Center - The imaginative 15,000-square-foot children's area includes 80,000 items - books, DVDs, CDs and more. Self-checkout is available. Story times in many different languages are held in the green, triangle-shaped Anne Marie Gault Story Hour Room. The area has 22 computers, a family restroom, boys' and girls' restrooms, and an area for parking strollers.
Microsoft Auditorium - Small performances, lectures, slide shows and speaking engagements are held in the 275-seat Microsoft Auditorium. The back of the Auditorium can expand, creating an additional 150 seats for larger programs.
Evelyn W. Foster Learning Center - Literacy, ESL and World Language resources are on Level 1. The Library Equal Access Program (LEAP) is located here as well. This area has language learning workstations with audio, video and computer language learning programs, and a technology lab that provides access to adaptive technology, as well as ESL & Literacy learning resources. Restrooms are here as well. There is artwork by Ann Hamilton - a 7,200-square-foot maple floor featuring 11 of the languages found in the Library's collection. The letters are backward like the typeface traditionally used to print books. The backward letters recreate the experience of learning to read, where abstract symbols become meaningful.
Level 2: Staff
Level 2 is for staff members and not open to the public. It has shipping, receiving, book sorting and technical and collection services.
Level 3: The Norcliffe Foundation Living Room/ Fifth Avenue
Level 3 is called the "Living Room," and includes areas to gather or read. This room is open and airy - the ceiling is 50 feet high. The bright, colorful carpets are patterns of lifelike plants that match the plantings outside the Fifth Avenue entrance. This floor has the following:
- Book return/check out
- Visitor Center
- FriendShop (gift shop)
- Chocolati coffee cart with seating for 20
- Starbucks Teen Center
- Feature film video and DVD collection
- Maria Lee Koh and Family Fiction Collection
- Large print collection
- New books
- Popular periodicals and newspapers
- Public restrooms
The base of the atrium is located on this level. The dramatic space allows patrons to look up and see the meeting rooms on Level 4, and the Charles Simonyi Mixing Chamber on Level 5.
Level 4: The Red Floor/ Meeting Rooms
Level 4 has four major meeting rooms. The corridor walls, floors and ceilings are painted in deep reds and pinks, while the meeting rooms are calm, neutral colors - such as brown and gray. Two Boeing Technology Training Center labs are used for public and staff computer instruction. This floor also has public restrooms.
Level 5: Charles Simonyi Mixing Chamber
The 19,500-square-foot Mixing Chamber is where patrons go for help with general questions and research. This floor has the following:
- Large computer lab
- Scanners and image editing equipment
- Current telephone directories
- Community bulletin board
- Public review documents and income tax forms
- Legrady Art Installation, "Making Visible The Invisible"
- Study tables
The character of the space is silvery and high tech - the ceiling is black and the floor aluminum. This floor also has the largest configuration of technology in one spot — 140 computers — and is the entry to the Books Spiral. The Quick Information Center provides telephone reference service on this floor
Levels 6-9: Books Spiral
The Books Spiral is four floors of book stacks, connected by gentle ramps. The majority of the nonfiction collection — 75 percent of the entire collection — is located on the Books Spiral. This lets the nonfiction collection exist in one continuous run, and avoids the problem of having to move books into other rooms or floors as the collection expands. The spiral lets all patrons — including people with disabilities — move throughout the entire collection without depending on stairs, escalators or elevators. Nonfiction videos, DVDs, CDs, and books on tape are shelved together on Level 7. Escalator and elevator stops and floor mats throughout the Books Spiral are labeled with Dewey Decimal System numbers to help people find the items on each floor.
- Books Spiral 6 - Magazines, newspapers, government publications, small conference room
- Books Spiral 7 (000 - 300) - The Maffei Family Aviation Room, the Barry A. Ackerley Business Collection, Job Resource Center, Job and career books, nonfiction media collection, science, public restrooms
- Books Spiral 8 (301 - 799) - Peter F. Donnelly Arts and Literature Collection, music CDs, two music practice rooms, the Kreielsheimer Foundation Performance Arts Room, regional arts collection
- Books Spiral 9 (800 - 999 and biographies) - Genealogy, the Maritz Map Room, A. Scott Bullitt History and Biography Collection, Eulalie and Carlo Scandiuzzi Writers' Room, small conference room
Level 10: Betty Jane Narver Reading Room
The light-filled, nearly 12,000-square-foot Reading Room has seating for 400, a 40-foot ceiling and views of Elliott Bay. The Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room is located on this level, overlooking the Reading Room. You may reach Level 10 by escalator or elevator.
Level 11: Headquarters
Level 11 has administrative offices, including the chief librarian's office, the Virginia Burnside Board Room, Human Resources and staff lunch room.