One of the things that make me the proudest about living here (I was born and raised here as well) in Seattle is the public library system.
With the passage of the public works levy a few years ago, Seattle now has a collection of superb, cutting edge technology neighborhood libraries--Capitol Hill, Ballard, the International District, Wallingford, Montlake, Northgate, Greenwood...
By the way, I'm not as great a fan of the new Rem Koolhas downtown library (prefer the San Francisco Public Library, though I concede that the central SPL is vastly superior to the old hulking structure it replaced on 4th Avenue and also square foot for square foot was only perhaps 1/3 as expensive as that of its S.F. counterpart).
My favorite is either the "nautical"- architecturally-inspired Capitol Hill library (replacing the cramped, rudimentary Susan J. Henry branch which was built circa 1960) or the Greenwood branch (with its balcony looking out onto the neighborhood below.
The Ballard Branch is also exceeds any expectations (again, comparing it with the old one that it replaced). It is very heavily used.
What a wonderful use of public funds. These are a great value (I can hardly think of a better dollar-for-dollar value, and that probably would include the yet-to-be-built subway system).
When you think of the $10 billion dollar being spent every month fighting the ill-conceived, ill-begotten, nigh totally unproductive war in you-know-where, you can be very grateful that AT LEAST the citizens of this city have shown what really works for the benefit of its communities...
I might mention that what nicely complements the Ballard Branch Library across the street is a charming, unpretentious "mini-plaza" that replaced the eyesore that was the Safeway and its accompanying parking lot It invites comparison with the city commons in New England (or for that matter, Europe).
Seattle once had the great vision of the Olmsted brothers for its parks. Now it has the equivalent for its library system. For a city that boasts one of the highest per capita book-reading rates, or adult college graduate percentages, this is all very good news.