The Seattle Metaphysical Library (legally known as the “As-You-Like-It” Library) has been around since 1961. Run by volunteers, they specialize in things that you can’t find in the public library. Their online catalog shows their diversity, with books, videos and magazines on subjects to investigate as diverse as your imagination.
It was started in 1961 by three retired school teachers interested in astrology and Rosicrucianism. One was the editor for Rosicrucian Digest.
The library first had a space in Pike Place Market, but when it was being renovated, they had to move. They relocated to Capitol Hill in the 70’s. They had a large following there, but in the 90’s, this non-profit was priced out of the area. When the gentleman who angel funded the library at the time passed away, volunteers banded together, boxed up the collection and found a new, less expensive home for it.
They are now located in a small basement space in Ballard, but the enthusiasm for housing and sharing this knowledge is still high.
This aggressively agnostic group considers themselves a conscious resistance to the “dumbing down” of the public. Some of their books are 100 years old.
“Books back then were dense,” said Margaret Bartley, library president. “People thought differently back then. They had more time. It’s good to be aware of that and to read books like that.”
The collection houses over 14,000 books and many hundreds of audio and video tapes, CDs, DVDs, 150 titles of magazines (many out of print), and newspaper clippings on a variety of metaphysical and spiritual topics. They are hoping to soon digitize the video tapes, since they are contain things no longer available anywhere else.
The library is open to the public and there is no charge for browsing or reading at the library. Membership is only $35/ year (soon to go up a bit as rent has gone up) and membership fees directly pay the rent and utilities. Members are able to check out material and even hold small events at the library. A couple monthly events currently being held are “Weird Science” on the 1st Friday of the month, and “Tarot Through Jungian Eyes” every Wednesday.
Among the many subjects covered in the collection, there are paranormal investigating resources, parapsychology, comparative religion, feminism, mythology, Indian, spiritual healing, magik and remote viewing. Their biggest sections are Astrology and Health, which includes subjects like yoga, mind-body work, energy work, aromatherapy and diet.
Their collection is all donated, so they have a lot of collections of specific teachers like Edgar Cayce and Rudolf Steiner. The public libraries are dropping books like crazy, according to Bartley, so they want to make sure people can still find the older works. It’s hard deciding which books to cull, which they have to do because they only have so much space. The library has a small section of books for sale, they are duplicates or subjects you can find in the public library, so they don’t keep them.
If they don’t have something you are looking for, you can ask publishers for a review copy of a new book, review it, then donate it to the library to help expand their selection even more.
The library is always looking for volunteers and board members to help run this eclectic collection of knowledge. They have a newsletter with over 1,200 subscribers as well. See details on their website.
Bartley is proud of their collection. “We are a remnant of the old Seattle altruism, where you try to do something for others.”
The Seattle Metaphysical Library is in the Kress building in Ballard. Their address is 2220 NW Market St L-05, Ballard, WA 98107 (look for the sandwich board sign on the sidewalk). Their hours can be erratic, so call ahead if you are driving far (206-329-1794), and check the website to see a map of free parking in the area.
Contributed by Michelle Gehlman-Teeter