On November 7, 2009, the King County Library System's first unstaffed, automated "library express" opens at Redmond Ridge, with a special sneak-preview celebration. Redmond Ridge is not within the city limits of Redmond, but is a recently built master planned development located due east of the city. The Redmond Ridge Library Express will open for regular business on the following Monday, November 9, but the sneak preview is a chance for the community to celebrate the fruition of a joint project between KCLS and the Redmond Ridge Residential Owners Association (RRROA). The 300-square-foot-facility, housed in the RRROA office building, is primarily designed to provide a local place for ridge residents to pick up their library holds.
Request for Library Service
Redmond Ridge is a part of unincorporated King County bordered on the west by Union Hill, which drops down to the city of Redmond, on the east by the steep slope down to the Snoqualmie River Valley known as Novelty Hill, on the south by Union Hill Road, and extending on the north to encompass the Redmond Watershed Preserve and the Trilogy at Redmond Ridge development. It was historically known as Northridge, until the name was changed in 1998 by Quadrant Homes. Quadrant, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser, was the owner/developer of a 1,000-acre tract developed as a master planned development under the name Redmond Ridge.
During the 15-year period from 1998 to 2013, three major developments were built out on Redmond Ridge: Quadrant's Redmond Ridge, Trilogy at Redmond Ridge, and Murray Franklyn's Redmond Ridge East. These developments included single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, apartments, a shopping center, an elementary school, a business park, playfields, and a golf course and clubhouse, resulting in a newly-settled combined population of nearly 19,000 inhabitants on the ridge.
In response to a request by the Redmond Ridge Residential Owners Association for local library service, KCLS staff surveyed ridge residents and learned that 95 percent preferred to pick up their library holds locally, instead of driving to existing KCLS libraries in Redmond or in Duvall, located to the northeast in the Snoqualmie River Valley below the ridge. Accordingly, in 2008 KCLS set aside operational funding to explore building an automated "library express" facility on Redmond Ridge, similar to the one that the library was considering for Woodinville. When the Woodinville plans fell through, the Redmond Ridge project became the only one of its kind in the library system.
The homeowners association cooperated with KCLS by offering to lease a portion of its primary office building on Cedar Park Crescent NE for the project. KCLS staff completed the design work, and renovation commenced in August 2009.
Opening the Library Express
Work on the 300-square-foot facility was completed in time for the sneak-preview opening on a cool, cloudy Saturday, November 7, 2009. Cider and doughnuts, provided by Friends of the Redmond Library, were served under canopies festooned with balloons set up in the parking lot. Bill Ptacek, the KCLS Director, spoke at the opening ceremony, and a ribbon was cut. The ceremony was well-attended, with many ridge residents touring the small facility.
Tours of the Redmond Ridge Library Express during the sneak preview showed residents a cozy book-lined room mainly dedicated to providing a place to pick up materials put on hold. Patrons could place a hold from any internet-connected device, and then after notification that it was ready, pick it up at the library express. Although "unstaffed" in the sense that no librarian or KCLS employee was on duty during most of the hours of operation, library operations staff visited the library express daily to shelve holds materials for pickup, or to pull expired holds. Library shipping staff also visited the library express daily to change out the drop boxes and deliver materials on hold.
Patrons who toured the library during the sneak preview also saw a small area of Choice Reads for browsing, which could be checked out. There was an automated self-checkout station, as well as a computer dedicated to the library catalog, and two red phones connected to the Redmond Library information desk. All these facilities remained in place in 2016.
When the Redmond Ridge Library Express opened, there was one library drop box out front, and the facility was open the same hours as the Redmond Library. There was a keypad and library-card scanner for obtaining entry, which were protected from rain by a small shelf. Later, after having only one drop box resulted in materials overflowing onto the pavement, a second drop box was added. The keypad/scanner box froze up several times in the first months of operations, and had to be encased in a metal box to protect it against the weather. The hours were changed to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week -- except the facility closed during RRROA meetings.
Except for these changes, the Redmond Ridge Library Express has continued to serve the community as originally designed. Redmond Ridge residents have used the library express heavily enough that in 2015 it accounted for a circulation of nearly 90,000 items. Having their own library -- even an automated limited-service facility -- has helped to make the new master planned communities of Redmond Ridge feel more like an established city.