The legend of the library that caused Building 4 to sink

Raymond Chen

Raymond

In the now-demolished original Microsoft Redmond campus, the library was on the second floor of building 4.

Building 4 was not built to be the library. It was just another building on campus, but the library ended up there. The library occupied the space on the second floor directly above the little cafeteria.¹

You might think it strange to put a library on the second floor, seeing as the books are going to be heavy, but that was the only place it could go, since the “large” room downstairs was already being used for the cafeteria. (Each building had space for two “large” rooms, one on the lower floor, and one on the upper floor.)

Of course, you can’t cheat gravity, and over time, as the library collection grew, the weight of the books took their toll on Building 4. Some people say that the building was sinking. Maybe. But everyone agreed that the pillars in the underground parking were starting to crack.

The library moved out of Building 4, and it spent time in a handful of other buildings before settling into a purpose-built space in Building 92. Even though parts of Building 92 are open to the public, the library is not part of the publicly-accessible portion. Sorry.

¹ The word “little” is to distinguish the cafeteria from the “big” cafeterias in the larger buildings like 9. By today’s standards, all of the cafeterias in the original Microsoft Redmond campus were little. Even the “big” ones.

6 comments

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  • Avatar
    Ron ParkerMicrosoft employee

    “The weight of the books made the library sink because they failed to account for it in the design process” is a truly old-school urban legend, right up there with the hook-handed killer. I first encountered it on the alt.folklore.urban FAQ way back in the very early nineties, and it was long in the tooth by then. Probably every decently-sized library anywhere has been the subject of that claim at one time or another.

  • Avatar
    Maximilien Noal

    It’s stupid as I’ve never even set foot anywhere on the American continent, but I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic and sad every time I read that the old MS campus is no more.

    I imagine that there was a lot of old documentation there that a nerd like myself would enjoy a lot, and that maybe it was archived (like old arcane Windows 3.X stuff that everyone who worked on it wishes to forget).

  • Avatar
    Don Hacherl

    When the campus was opened the library was in building 2, on the second floor overlooking the lake. The cafeteria was indeed on the first floor of building 4, but the second floor above that was the exec offices (Bill & Jon). After a year or so they did add extra support pillars in the parking garage under building 2 (costing us maybe 1/3 of the sheltered parking), but the explanation at the time was that it was the weight of the machine room on the first floor that hadn’t been taken into account. The garages under 1 & 4 didn’t get the retrofit, but they didn’t have machine rooms. I don’t know about building 3 because that was Apps land, a strange and distant realm.
    Source: my first office was across the hall from the library, in building 2.

  • Jonathan Harston
    Jonathan Harston

    Reminds me that back at Uni in the Chaplaincy there was a cobweb high in the ceiling. We used to joke that it was a load-bearing cobweb, and that was why it had never been removed.
    Sure enough a few years later, some enthusiast cleaner got some scaffolding and cleaned the ceiling. A few weeks later cracks appeared in the walls and the building was condemned.