High-tech design of Seattle\'s new library will honor tradition

Building a new library these days involves a lot of decisions...how many computers, how many internet terminals, and, oh yeah, how many shelves for books. A new library in Seattle has decided to put more emphasis on books. From the Seattle Times\"Before designing a $159 million building - a hall to honor books, learning and the story of the human condition - it was worth finding out whether the future could make all of that a bit quaint. Would books, as we know them, cease to exist? Would e-books and Web TV rule the day? Should new libraries trim the space given to bookshelves?\"

\"The experts were divided: Books will die. Books will go on.\"

\"It was good to hear both sides, said Joshua Ramus, project architect at The Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the Dutch firm hired to design Seattle\'s new library. But here, he said, \"We\'re betting on the book.\"

\"That may be a relief or just a sign of smart public relations to those who wonder whether the people behind the copper, steel and glass design - one that boasts \"floating boxes,\" no less - care at all about tradition. They insist they do but also hope the complexity of their mission is understood: Open a library in 2003 that will glory in books, yet stand prepared for unforeseen advances in how information is communicated and stored.\"

\"Some cities have miscalculated. In San Francisco, the library had too few shelves the day it opened in 1996. Other new libraries have been built with rooms so generic in design that they can hold the main stacks, a children\'s area or a reading room - an approach that emphasizes flexibility over flair. Such shifts in function are nearly assumed these days because no one feels safe in predicting how much room books will take up in the future.\"

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