On Sunday, December 4, 1966, at 2 p.m., Opening Day ceremonies for the new Shoreline Library begin with speeches by county officials and library staff. Those in attendance are invited to enjoy refreshments served by members of the Shoreline Library Guild and to tour the new two-story library. Located at NE 174th Street and 5th Avenue NE, the library was designed by architects James Bell and Donald Greve and built by contractor Harold O. Sternberg at a total cost of $153,351. With a collection of 30,000 items, the new Shoreline Library becomes the King County Library System's first area reference center in the north end of the county.
Shoreline's Early Libraries
Starting in 1912 the Richmond Beach Library provided access to books for residents in the Shoreline area, extending from the shores of Puget Sound to those of Lake Washington between North Seattle and the Snohomish County line. A second small library, the Richmond Highlands Library, was opened in 1944. But with the development of rail, roads, and highways, regional growth quickly expanded the suburbs outside of Seattle. King County's north-end population density began to shift away from waterfront locations and toward residential development in the central portions of Shoreline, the unincorporated community taking its name from the school district that served it.
The Shoreline Library began in 1947 in a 450-square-foot war-surplus building at N 178th Street and Linden Avenue N. Although small, it served the community for more than a decade but by 1959 the community needed a larger library and more library services. Library board member Barbara Sand led a campaign to raise $45,000 to buy a building site and hire an architect. An informational pamphlet was written and distributed titled "Our Vanishing Library," which was used to raise public awareness and support for a new library.
Raising Money for the New Library
Much of the fundraising was done door-to-door in the community, with the Shoreline Lions Club helping out by hosting a benefit dance at Parker's Ballroom, the long-lived dancehall at 170th and Aurora. When an initial amount of money was raised, the board applied for and received a conditional-use permit to allow the library to be built in a residential area at E 174th and 50th Ave NE. KCLS agreed to provide a book collection and library staff while the building and site were the responsibility of the city of Shoreline. Community fundraising yielded enough money to pay for a site (three lots) and to hire architects James Bell and Donald Greve.
Construction began but, despite great enthusiasm and support, the money raised amounted to little more than a third of the cost of construction and in 1961, after only a shell of the building was completed, the project was halted for lack of funds. That year the state legislature passed a law allowing the creation of Local Improvement Districts (LID) for library construction in rural (unincorporated) communities. The Shoreline Library board, headed by John Spellman (1926-2018), who would go on to serve as a King County commissioner, county executive, and governor of Washington, established an LID to help fund a $100,000 Shoreline Library that would be 6,400 square-feet in size. Public information meetings were long and contentious; some residents did not want the library funded through extra taxation. The LID measure was challenged and eventually struck down by the state supreme court as unconstitutional, leaving Shoreline with only the bones of a library building, and costs rising.
Fortunately federal funding for rural library construction became available in 1964, making it possible to bring the library to completion. In order to obtain the federal funds, the Shoreline Library annexed into the King County Library System in 1965 and the land and building were turned over to KCLS.
A Grand Opening
The long-awaited new Shoreline Library was dedicated on Sunday, December 4, 1966. Richard Albrecht of the Shoreline Library Board officiated as Master of Ceremonies at the opening day event. He was followed by King County Commissioner-elect John Spellman and King County Commissioner Scott Wallace, who spoke of the many years of planning, fundraising, and hard work that had brought the community a quality, modern library. The audience was then invited to enjoy coffee and to tour the new library, with its adult collection on the main floor and children's and meeting rooms on the upper level. The building was of modular construction, each floor approximately 3,000 square feet in size.
The new Shoreline Library opened for regular business the following day under the supervision of librarian Kathleen Sherman. With a collection of 30,000 books as well as research and study materials, magazines, phonograph records, and 16 mm film, the Shoreline Library was designated as an area reference center for the county's north end.
The Shoreline area's population at the time was approximately 43,000. With the opening of the Shoreline Library, the Richmond Highlands Library was closed with its staff reassigned to Shoreline. The Richmond Beach Library, which had joined KCLS back in 1944, remained in service, and some of the money raised in the fundraising efforts went to improvements at that library.
The Shoreline Library that opened in 1966 served the community until 1992, when it was closed, and half the collection moved to a temporary location (the other half went into storage) to allow demolition of the old building and construction of a larger new library on the site. That Shoreline Library, which opened in 1993, continues to serve the greater Shoreline area, including parts of North Seattle and southern Snohomish County.