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Seattle’s First Private Library Open Not Just To Members, But All Who Love Books

One of several places to curl up with a book at Seattle's new independent library, Folio. A basic membership costs $125 a year.


Seattle is a city that likes to read.  According to Amazon, people in Seattle buy more books, magazines and newspapers than in any other city its size, per capita.



Now, there is a new spot here where book lovers can socialize, work, and maybe bump into their favorite authors.


It’s called Folio. It’s an independent library. If you have $125 you can become a member.


David Brewster, the same man who founded Seattle’s Town Hall and the online newspaper, Crosscut, came up with the idea after visiting a similar library in Boston.


“It’s a sign that a city takes learning and writing and creativity and the humanities seriously. It protects books that otherwise are going to be dispersed and it assembles book lovers into an institution that has a lot of life to it,” said Brewster.


Brewster said Seattle’s public library system is robust, but serves many needs that go beyond just books.


“They are really community centers and libraries,” he said.


Folio is specifically for people who live for books. “We are for the community of the book — people who write books, who read books, who talk about books, publish books, design books, sell books,” said Brewster.


A core function of Folio is to take books in private collections and put them into circulation for future generations, the same way museums acquire paintings and make them available to the public.


Folio rents about 6,000 square feet of space in the downtown YMCA. Since April, volunteers have been organizing thousands of donated books, and setting up various rooms where writers can work and where members can eat their lunches or host a book group. This is the week that Folio officially opens.


The public is welcome to look at the books, but only members can check them out. So far, more than 400 people have signed up.  

One of them is bestselling author Maria Semple who wrote “Where’d You Go Bernadette”. On Folio’s website Semple wrote that she is, “giddily envisioning all the writing, reading and socializing,” she’ll be doing there.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.