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Mission & History

Located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people, Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum was founded as a nonprofit Washington corporation in 2014. Folio's first home was on the ground floor of the south wing of the YMCA, a historical, landmarked 1930s building at Fourth and Marion, in the heart of downtown Seattle. In July 2018 Folio reopened in the Economy Building at Pike Place Market at 1st Ave and Pike St. in the heart of the market community.

Inspired by the country’s earliest libraries, often called athenaeums, Folio provides access to discerning private book collections that have been donated, and a home for reading, writing, dialogue and learning. Public programming includes book-based discussions, readings, presentations of book arts and rare volumes, and musical, cultural and civic events. Folio’s public rooms are also available to many other nonprofit groups needing attractive, affordable, downtown venue space.


Independent libraries in America have long provided access to private book collections and rooms for discussion and writing on important issues. The seminal idea came from Ben Franklin in 1731 and rapidly spread to hundreds of cities worldwide, welcoming citizens from all walks of life. Bringing an active and inclusive 21st century vision to such member-supported libraries, the founders of Folio are creating an inviting, intimate home for “the community of the book” while also producing and hosting educational programs for the whole community.

Our Founder: David C. Brewster
Seattle is one of the most literate and reader-rich cities in America, so it seems only fitting that we, like 19 other cities, have a membership library, open to all and convenient for all. Such libraries pool excellent books from previously private libraries, create ideal spaces for reading, working, and talking about books and ideas, and radiate outward into the community in many ways.

Independent, membership libraries like Folio were really the first broadly accessible libraries. They trace back to one started by Ben Franklin in Philadelphia in 1731 so that bookworms of modest means, like young Ben, could have access to important books. Today, they provide places "to be alone but not alone" -- sociable, booklined "jewels of a perfect size" where booklovers can work in quiet, talk about ideas, and hear stimulating programs open to the broad community. Rather than relying on taxpayer support, these libraries charge modest membership dues and receive tax-deductible donations of fine books.

Our location at the Pike Place Market provides all kinds of stimulation and amenities just outside the door. Come to work, borrow a book, read the New York Times, and then meet a friend for lunch or a drink and stay for a mind-enriching evening program. Get back to reading! Rediscover the Pike Place Market, America's finest!   

​I hope you'll want to join this "community of the book." Stop by any day for a tour, a cup of coffee, and a free book!

Good Words From Our Community
Lynda Mapes

Author, photographer and environmental journalist for the Seattle Times

"It is truly impressive how much Folio is contributing to the community and nurturing a book culture in Seattle."

Steve Scher

Journalist and longtime host of  “Weekday” on  KUOW

"Folio is one of the most exciting efforts underway in Seattle. We are a writers’ and a readers’ city. Folio brings readers and writers together in a unique and dynamic center—a place where both groups share in discovery and collaboration.


As our culture moves more and more of its writing and reading into the digital domain, Folio is the place where people gather to build and share the community of books."

David Williams

Natural History writer

"Folio is one of the most literate places around in a place that’s so focused on books."

Maria Semple

Bestselling author of  Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

“I’m wildly excited about the Seattle Athenaeum and am giddily envisioning all the writing, reading and socializing I’ll be doing there.  What a wonderful and essential addition to our already exceedingly literary city.”

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