On February 1, 1992, a dedication ceremony is held for what is then the largest library in the King County Library System (KCLS), at 25,000 square feet. The new library, located at 34200 1st Way S in Federal Way, opened a month earlier, on December 28, 1991, to augment the services provided by the existing Federal Way 320th Library located a few miles to the north. Two years later it will be surpassed in size by the Bellevue Library, and then for a time by the Redmond Library, but an expansion of nearly 10,000 square feet in 2010 will make the Federal Way Library again the second-largest in KCLS.
Building a Large Library
Until 1991, Federal Way was served by a single library, which since 1970 had been located on S 320th Street and known as the Federal Way 320th Library. That library was destroyed by fire in 1975 and rebuilt the following year, but not expanded from its original size. With Federal Way continuing to grow rapidly, another, larger library was needed. Funds to build it became available when a $67 million KCLS bond issue was approved by voters in 1988.
Construction began in March 1991 and was completed by the end of the year at a cost of $3.6 million. The Federal Way Regional Library, as it was then known, opened on Saturday, December 28, 1991. The 25,000-square-foot single-story library was located on a wooded site just north of Panther Lake Elementary School at 34200 1st Way S. At the time it opened, it was the largest of the 37 libraries that then made up the King County Library System. (Later, in 1993, the Bellevue Library became the largest KCLS library at 80,000 square feet, and in 1999 the 30,000-square-foot Redmond Library also surpassed the Federal Way Library until the latter's 2010 expansion.)
A little more than a month after the library opened, a formal dedication ceremony was held on Saturday, February 1, 1992, with more than 600 people in attendance. William T. Gates, president of the KCLS Board of Trustees, served as master of ceremonies. Harpist Pat Wooster performed classical and contemporary music, and puppeteer Greg Temple gave a puppet show. U.S. Representative Rod Chandler; state legislators Peter Von Reichbauer, Jean Marie Brough, and Maryann Mitchell; King County Council member Paul Barden; and Federal Way mayor Robert Stead all spoke at the dedication, as did Jan Lightner, president of the Federal Way Library Board.
The Federal Way Library quickly became a landmark for the community in both architectural design and information resources. The dedication program said:
"The library takes its place strongly and proudly as a landmark for the community. It was sited on the lot with a minimum of disruption to existing trees and maximum exposure to the community. The 25,000-square-foot building allows for flexibility within its walls. The four interior columns do triple duty: they hold up the roof, act as air returns for the ventilating and air conditioning system, and add bright colors in keeping with the active tones of the library. This perfectly square building includes the theme of geometric elements (squares, circles and triangles), making the building harmonious with diverse elements. For example, on the north side, with the weakest light, the large triangular window lets more light in. On the east and west sides, being inundated with strong light, the smallest windows are placed" (dedication program, 1992).
Growing Even Larger
The Federal Way Library was busy from the time it opened, drawing users from across Federal Way and as far away as Tacoma and northern Pierce County. In less than 20 years, the library outgrew its 25,000-square-foot space, and it was renovated and expanded in 2010.
The renovated library reopened on June 5, 2010, with new floor-to-ceiling windows letting in even more light, and with 19,000 new books and other materials added to the collection. The expansion by 9,500 feet brought the Federal Way Library to 34,500 square feet, once again making it second in size to the Bellevue Library. The additional space provided larger areas for children and teens, more tables for reading and studying, and more room for the expanded collection.