King County Library System's Carnation Library officially opens on January 31, 2009.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 9/08/2016
  • Essay 11253

On January 31, 2009, the King County Library System (KCLS) and the City of Carnation dedicate the new $3.7 million Carnation Library, built on the site of its previous building at 4804 Tolt Avenue in Carnation. Part of a $172 million KCLS bond issue approved by voters in 2004, the structure doubles the square footage of the older library building and includes a community meeting room, study areas, and expanded spaces for children and teens. The Carnation Library is the last completed in an award-winning five-library project by the architects of Miller Hull Partnership and contractors BNBuilders, Inc.

Expanding Library Services

In 2004 county voters approved a $172 million King County bond issue that funded the construction of 13 new libraries, 11 expanded libraries, 11 library renovations, and two parking-expansion projects, and other improvements. Five of the new library buildings -- Carnation, Fall City, Muckleshoot, Black Diamond, and Snoqualmie -- were constructed using the design-build method. Work on all five was done by the team of the Miller Hull Partnership, architects, and BNBuilders, Inc., general contractors. MEJ Landscape Architecture, MLA Engineering, PAE Consulting Engineers, Springline Design, Johansen Mechanical, RICE Group, Prime Electric, and Case Engineering also worked on the project. The five libraries were completed between 2005 and early 2009. In 2008 the project was honored with a Design Build Institute of America (DBIA) Northwest Design Build Award for Best Overall Building Project.

Carnation's 5,000-square-foot, $3.7 million building replaced the previous 2,200-square-foot library on the same site. Construction began in July 2008, and the library opened on January 31, 2009. The Carnation Library was completed last in the five-library project. Not only did the new structure double the size of Carnation's previous library building, but it also gave the community a modern library that could better accommodate and adapt to new technology, with expanded space for children and teens and more reading and study areas, making the library a vital community center.

Input from Library Users

When local library users were asked for input in the planning stages for the new library, they strongly voiced a preference for three things: keep and transfer the well-loved Native American artwork in the 1972 library, add a much-needed meeting room, and make space to park bicycles. At the dedication ceremony, attendees had the chance to see that their requests had been honored. A community meeting room had been added (with a sliding door that could be opened to regular library activities when the space was not being used for meetings), ample bicycle parking was provided close to the library's entrance, and the artwork had been given a prominent place.

During the construction process, the Carnation Library operated out of a temporary location. The Native American art that had been displayed in the old library was carefully stored and then artfully incorporated into the new library, making it a central feature. Considering its important place in the library's design, Lael Dempster, operations supervisor at the Carnation Library, remarked in 2016:

"In my opinion, the art work at Carnation makes it a unique library. The wall reliefs and carved wood panels reflect the culture of our indigenous tribes and the basket collection is a beautiful representation of the weaving skills of three tribes of the Pacific Northwest" (Comstock email).

Opening Day

Five hundred people -- about a quarter of the city's population -- attended the opening ceremony on Saturday, January 31, 2009. Carnation Mayor Mike Flowers expressed the feelings of many in saying: "Thank you King County Library System for bringing this great facility here. This is a great place to live and raise a family and we will enjoy the library for years to come" ("Delivering on a Promise ..., 10").

The new Carnation Library had a strong street presence with a "large 'front porch' area" that faced Tolt Avenue and included a new commissioned artwork, a sculpture titled Table Lamp by Peter Reiquam ("Delivering on a Promise ..., 10"). The new library opened with a collection of 25,000 books, magazines, movies, and CDs, a total of 4,000 more items than in the previous collection. Six months following the library dedication, circulation had risen by 126 percent and patron visits had increased by 13 percent.


"Carnation Library 2007 Community Study," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed May 10, 2016 (; "Delivering on a Promise to Voters: KCLS Capital Improvement Plan 11-Year Report, September 2015," KCLS website accessed June 4, 2016 (; "Carnation Library Opens," Daily Journal of Commerce, February 10, 2009 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Carnation Library, King County Library System" (by Margaret Riddle), (accessed July __, 2016); "King County Library System, Five Design-Build Libraries," BNBuilders website accessed June 4, 2016 (; "5 Design/Build Branch Libraries," Miller Hull Partnership website accessed June 9, 2016 (; Mary Comstock email to Margaret Riddle, June 6, 2016, in possession of Margaret Riddle, Everett, Washington.

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