The Student Chapter of the Special Library Association at University of Washington (SLA-UW) hosts 'library crawls' each quarter for students of the Information School. The crawl takes students to special libraries or collections in the Seattle area to introduce them to the variety of opportunities available. Students meet with librarians at the site, tour the collections and discover special libraries. A recent visit to the Seattle Metaphysical Library was written up by SLA-UW secretary Erin Boyington. Vice-Chair Violet Fox took pictures, which are available on this Flickr photo stream. A special thank to Violet and Erin for sharing the tour experience for this blog. Also check out their tour of NOAA Western Regional Center Libraries in May.
The Seattle Metaphysical Library is a small, subject-focused library that has existed in various forms for 50 years. The original collection was donated by a small group of women who compiled their private libraries and made them available as a hobby. It's been at its current location in Ballard for 6 years. On May 18th we joined Margaret Bartley, the Executive Director of the library, for a tour of this fascinating collection.
The library is open to the public and has a selection of books for sale (both in person and online), but only members can check out books for three weeks at a time. Membership costs $30 a year, and there are about 200 people on the roster. The library organizes events such as classes, workshops, and speakers on a variety of subjects related to its members’ interests.
The Seattle Metaphysical Library is staffed by dedicated volunteers who are interested in metaphysical subjects. They do occasional weeding, reorganization, check out books to members, and make passers-by feel welcome as they enjoy the library’s offerings. Ron, one of the volunteers, said that he considers his work there as a kind of “sacred duty”, which he has been doing now for many years. He explained that “A lot of my metaphysical ideas have developed over time from reading in the library.” Another volunteer, Cathy, agreed: “Being around so many different types of thought opens your mind.”
The library’s eccentric holdings, available to browse online, consist entirely of personal donations. The advantages of browsing and serendipitous finding in this collection are obvious to its users, who may have difficulty finding books about their areas of interest through Amazon or general bookstores.
The library's materials are well-organized by a customized cataloging system which allows for the addition of new categories as needed. Here are a few examples of the categories in the library, which are grouped alphabetically:
Elves, Little People
Face on Mars
Charles W. Leadbeater
Though it may be an unconventional collection, the Seattle Metaphysical Library’s major concerns and needs are like any other library: preservation, access, organization, and promotion of the unique resources it offers.