On June 25, 2008, the new $4.2 million Muckleshoot Library is dedicated on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation in southeast King County. Located on State Route 164 (Auburn Enumclaw Road SE) between Auburn and Enumclaw, the library is one of many new libraries that the King County Library System (KCLS) is building, along with renovating and expanding others, as part of a $172 million capital bond approved by King County voters in 2004. As both community partners and library patrons, the Muckleshoot Tribal Council has provided guidance in incorporating cultural identity through design aesthetics, tribal artworks, and traditionally used native plants as part of the landscaping. The end result is a library more than 6,000 square feet in size and modeled after a Northwest Native American longhouse.
Incorporating Tribal Culture and Identity
The first Muckleshoot Library was opened in 1968 through the combined efforts of KCLS and the Muckleshoot Tribe. It shared space in the Tribal Community Center, which was destroyed by fire two years later. KCLS provided mobile library service at various locations until 1975, when a new library opened in the new Muckleshoot Tribal Center. By 2000, with population increasing both on the reservation and throughout the library's service area, it was evident that a new facility would be needed. Once the bond issue was approved by voters in 2004, planning for the new building began in March 2005.
As part of the planning process, KCLS worked with a Tribal Planning Commission to help identify areas where Native American culture and identity could be included in the library's design and function. Emphasis on the need for the building to serve as a community meeting space resulted in a room equipped with a sliding glass wall to allow for a larger central space when not in use. Both the interior and exterior design reflected elements of a traditional longhouse design, including not only the large interior meeting space but also high ceilings, a pitched roof, and use of wood throughout.
More specific details were either incorporated directly into the architecture or included as cultural touchstones. Works of art by two tribal members, Al Charles Jr. and James Madison, which combined Northwest Coast Salish motifs with artist-inspired objects and scenes -- a carved cedar paddle and a canoe journey scene in metal relief -- were installed on the interior walls. Architect Ruth Coates (b. 1973) described the importance of other Native elements incorporated as part of the library's exterior and on its grounds:
"Our landscape architects did a lot of research into the plants that were important to the Tribe over generations -- cedar, swordfern and a whole host that were used for medicinal and cultural purposes over generations, and those were planted on site ... On the concrete outside is an abstraction from a Muckleshoot basket weave" ("Muckleshoot Library Opens ...").
The new building was one of five new KCLS library buildings designed by architects Miller Hull Partnership and built by general contractors BNBuilders, Inc. One consideration broadly applied to all five designs was an acknowledgment of the role that libraries in the twenty-first century play as community centers in addition to serving as book repositories.
A More Prominent Location
Like the previous 1,600 square-foot library, the new Muckleshoot Library was located on the Muckleshoot Reservation, but the new location fulfilled the promise of a more visible library with its placement on SR 164, a major transportation artery serving both Auburn and Enumclaw. Berlinda Adair (b. 1942), who was site manager for the library in the Muckleshoot Tribal Center from 1975 until her retirement in 2002, regarded the new location as "easier access than before, people can see it off the road" (Adair interview). By maintaining a location on reservation lands, yet within sight of the highway, the library could continue to serve a growing population of more than 3,600 Muckleshoot Tribe members while also serving residents of southeast King County from west of Enumclaw to a portion of southeast Auburn.
The placement of the library continued the practice of its predecessor by maintaining a close proximity to other educational centers. Just as the old library was part of the Muckleshoot Tribal School on reservations lands, the new library was also located on tribal land, leased by KCLS, near the Tribal College and a new tribal school serving preschool through 12th grade students. Three other schools outside the reservation boundaries are also in the library's service area.
The new location was also significant in "the discovery of stone flakes and other evidence of Native American activity on the proposed construction site" ("Muckleshoot Library Opens ..."). Recovery of these items was coordinated between the Washington State Department of Archaeology and the Muckleshoot Tribe prior to the new library's construction, which began in August 2007 after archaeologists checked the site that May for possible additional artifacts.
The new building, which incorporated modern, energy-efficient technology and environmentally friendly materials, completed in June 2008. The main reading room featured large windows to take advantage of natural lighting. "Building green" was endorsed by KCLS not just for the Muckleshoot Library but System-wide, with "five areas targeted ...: site planning; water conservation; energy savings; recycled materials; and the air quality of the interior environment" ("Delivering on a Promise to Voters ...," 3).
Around 150 people attended the dedication ceremony for the Muckleshoot Library on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. At the dedication, Tribal Council member John Daniels Jr. noted the positive changes:
"Right now the library that we are moving from is so small that we have to travel to the Auburn or Enumclaw libraries to relax or move around. I think a lot of people are going to be happy with the size and the fact that it is modern and has some tribal artwork" ("Muckleshoot Library Opens ...").
Use of the library increased following the dedication of the new building, reflecting its popularity in the community and the increased collection, which saw the addition of 4,500 books, magazines, movies, and CDs. In the first six months after the opening, KCLS noted patron visits increased 65 percent over the same time period at the previous library location. In the new building, the library staff, assisted by a Friends of the Muckleshoot Library group that was organized in 2007, has continued to serve the needs of the reservation and the surrounding communities within its service area.