Bothell Library, King County Library System

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 9/21/2016
  • Essay 20131
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Residents of the onetime logging town of Bothell at the northeast end of Lake Washington found ways to circulate books long before they had a permanent library. The Bothell Library traces its roots to 1905 and a space in the Odd Fellows Hall, where a telephone operator served as librarian. Several private libraries followed. Through efforts of a women's group, the first Bothell Library opened in the American Hotel in 1925, then moved to the Bothell Hotel. In 1928 the library was given space in Town Hall, with funding for a librarian position the following year. Bothell contracted with the King County Library System (KCLS) in 1946. With assistance from KCLS, the city built its first library building in 1969. Bothell voters annexed their library into KCLS in 1986. Bothell's history has been one of rapid growth. In 1992 the City of Bothell annexed Snohomish County's Canyon Creek area, doubling the city's size and making Bothell Library the only KCLS library providing service in two counties. The library opened in a new and larger building, with twice the floor space to serve Bothell and north King County.

Early Years

The area that became Bothell was once mainly swamps and forests, home to a subgroup of the Duwamish Tribe, the s-tsah-PAHBSH, meaning "willow people," whose permanent village sites were along the banks of Squak Slough (the Sammamish River). Early non-Indian settlers referred to the s-tsah-PAHBSH as the Squak, Simump, and Sammamish and called the area Squak Slough. These settlers began arriving in the late 1860s and for the next few decades they logged the forests and set up sawmills, and claimed homesteads and farmed.

There were already eight families of settlers in the area by 1876, when George Brackett (1842-1927) set up a logging camp known as Brackett's Landing, his crews cutting timber from the north banks of the river and floating them to nearby mills. The town took its name from David Bothell (1820-1905), who bought 80 acres of land from Brackett in 1885, built a hotel, and filed a plat in 1889 with the territorial government for the town of Bothell. His son George became the town's first mayor when it incorporated in 1909. A small business district slowly formed along Main Street and 1st Avenue.

Library Beginnings

With a growing community, the town needed a library. The year 1905 is considered the beginning of the Bothell Library, when a circulating collection of 300 books was set up in the Odd Fellows Hall on the south side of Main Street, where the library shared space with a local phone company. Switchboard operator Della Chambers served also as librarian. Several private libraries followed, including a small lending library in the home of Superintendent of Schools George Sickles that was continued by his successor, Henry Simonds; and ones located in the back room of the Bothell Methodist Church (1908), in Rupp's Drug Store (1914), and in Carlton Ericksen's Mercantile Store (1923).

Reverend Charles Bowen, pastor of the Methodist Church, and his wife Mabel arrived in Bothell in November 1924. Finding few resources in town for books, which she needed to supplement the Bible class she taught for 40 women, Mabel Bowen organized the women in the class to promote and raise funds for a public library. Seeking professional advice, the women consulted with the state librarian, who came to Bothell to teach Ellen Dedrick, Marion Caldwell, and Ethel Askren how to run a library, instructing them in cataloging, mending, and shelving practices of the time, as well as in making a card catalog. Residents donated money and books. The women raised $32, which allowed them to buy a used desk and necessary materials, with money left for a month's rent of $15 for a room in the northwest corner, main floor, of the American Hotel. Bothell Mayor W. J. Parker contributed five months' rent.

On January 19, 1925, the Bothell Library opened with a collection of 1,000 books. Thirty-six people registered for library cards, checked out books, and enjoyed cake and coffee. The first library board consisted of Marion Caldwell, Ethel Askren, Ellen Dedrick, and Mabel Bowen. Later that year the library moved to the Bothell Hotel, where rent was cheaper.

The big breakthrough for the library came on May 21, 1928, when the City Council voted to move the library into Town Hall, gratis. Town Hall was small -- only 14 by 22 feet -- with a city jail attached in the back. Council minutes of September 16, 1929, show that the city voted to give 10 months of library support, making this decision only one month before the famous stock market crash in October of that year.

Regardless of the hard times that were to follow Bothell continued to support its library, in 1936 approving a $10 per month librarian's salary, an amount that four librarians shared, each working one week per month. That same year a new Town Hall was built, and the library took its place there along with police and fire departments, the clerk/treasurer's office, and a dance hall. In 1946 the City of Bothell began contracting with the newly formed King County Library System. The Bothell Library remained in Town Hall until 1969.

First Library Building

Through the 1960s Bothell and the areas surrounding it grew rapidly, with more residents and a changing economy. There was a great need for the Bothell Library to have a building of its own. Voters eventually approved a bond issue and in 1967 an architect and builder began drawing plans -- just in time, since by 1968 Interstate 405 was completed through Bothell, linking its eastside communities. The library director during this period was Laura Corner (1904-1993). Recalling the hard-fought battle to build the new library, nine-year library board member Lee Marvin Boyd recollected:

"We finally went to bid and were horrified to find that we were thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars over and (architect) John Morse had to go back and draw plans again ... and as we were building we realized we were $40,000 short of being able to meet the budget. The board took the news to the Mayor and City Council who were able to give an amount in the $20,000s. But the bonds gathered interest and by the time we had built the building and dedicated it in July 1969, there was enough money so that we were able to squeak by" (McCloskey).

The library was built at 9654 NE 182nd for roughly $310,000, including site improvements, and was ultramodern for its time, with a multipurpose room, carpeting, a conference room, a record-listening station, staff and work rooms, and a garden court.

A crowd of about 250 attended the library dedication on July 9, 1969. State Representative Lloyd Meeds (1927-2005) dedicated the building in honor of the state's U.S. senators, Warren Magnuson (1905-1989) and Henry Jackson (1912-1983). A suggestion was made that a bronze plaque with the names of library board members be placed on the building, but the library board dismissed the suggestion, saying that the library belonged to its citizens. The new Bothell Library operated as a 50-50 partnership between the City of Bothell and KCLS. The City of Bothell provided the building site and funded maintenance and operation costs, with KCLS providing the organizational structure, professional staff, and collections.

More Growth

By the mid-1980s the Bothell Library was one of the fastest-growing libraries in King County. The library was running out of room and, in order to expand, city officials had two options: float a general-obligation bond for library expansion as a city project or annex the library into the King County Library System. The officials let voters decide, after explaining that the staff and board would remain the same and annexation would allow the library to provide more services at a lower property-tax rate. On November 4, 1986, the annexation proposal passed with 84 percent approval, and the Bothell Library became part of KCLS.

With growth increasing throughout King County, voters approved a KCLS bond issue in 1988 to expand library services. The Bothell Library was included in these new plans, KCLS at first hoping to expand the facility to about 12,000 square feet. But Bothell was growing so fast that in 1989 the decision was made to build a new 25,000-square-foot regional library, which would be the largest in North King County at the time. It definitely needed to be larger: In 1992 the City of Bothell annexed the Canyon Creek area in Snohomish County, increasing its population by 47 percent and making the Bothell Library the only one in the King County Library System to include a portion of another county in its service area.

Old Building/New Building

Funds to build a new library in Bothell came from the $67 million KCLS bond issue approved in 1988. The choice to build a larger library building rather than expand the old one brought controversy regarding both a building site and the proposed demolition of the 1969 structure. The first plan called for building the new library on land near the old library, which would be torn down for parking space. Several residents and members of the Friends of the Bothell Library objected to the loss of the attractive 1969 building, surrounded by rhododendrons, large cedars, and a natural duck habitat. It was not that they objected to having a new and larger building; they wanted to keep the old one too. Some residents talked about the possibility of locating the regional library in Woodinville instead, but the Bothell location was considered the most suitable.

Construction began on a site near the old library in early 1995. The old library closed from September 5 to 17 to allow staff and volunteers to transfer 75,000 volumes of materials and other supplies across the parking lot to the new building. On September 18, 1995, the new building, designed by Zimmer, Gunsul & Frasca Partnership, opened at 18215 98th Avenue NE with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Bothell Regional Library opened as KCLS's major north-county reference center, with the capacity to build a much larger collection. Northwest artist Phillip Levine (b. 1931) had been commissioned to create a bronze sculpture for the new library, and it was placed near the library entrance. Titled 731/456 (the cataloging number for "bronze sculpture"), it soon would be affectionately called "Book Lady" by library patrons.

The City of Bothell already owned a portion of the 1969 building and purchased the remainder from KCLS, with plans to use the building for city offices. The Microsoft Corporation rented space there for a summer training program. The old library served for years as the Bothell Public Works Department before being torn down in 2016 as part of a large city revitalization project.

Friends of the Bothell Library

Organized in 1963 to help turn out the vote for a library levy, the Friends of the Bothell Library group has been one of the most productive Friends groups in the King County Library System. Over the years it has supported bond issues, raised thousands of dollars with both annual and ongoing book sales, sponsored programs for children and adults, commissioned important pieces of public art for the library, and in 1977 published a history of Squak Slough from 1870 to 1920. A ceramic mural from the 1969 library, by Robert Sperry (1945-2016), was transferred to the 1995 building through the group's efforts.

The Bothell Library houses a collection of clippings documenting the library's history, assembled in three-ring binders. Betty Green, who joined Friends of the Bothell Library shortly after she moved to Bothell in the late 1960s, organized, assembled, and continued adding clippings, photos, and program brochures to this collection.

The KCLS Foundation annually holds a Friends Day to honor outstanding work by these volunteers, and Bothell Library Friends have been recognized with various awards over the years: the Lifetime Achievement Award -- Rita Romig (2004); Friend of the Year -- Betty Green (2001) and Ann VanderGeld (2014); and Friends Hall of Fame -- Maryanne Shurtz (1998), Ralph and Pat Bishop (2002), Rosalie Icenhower (2003), Laurie Edwards (2005), and Janet Royea (2015).

More Growth Challenges

The Bothell Library is central, both geographically and by size, in what is called the Bothell-Kenmore-Kingsgate library cluster. The city is home to University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College campuses, as well as the Northshore School District. The library supports many service organizations, businesses, and professional agencies in its service area. By 2016 Bothell's commercial district stretched north and west on SR 522 (Bothell Way) and SR 527, with Bothell adjacent to Interstate 405, with the city well-served by both King County Metro Transit and Snohomish County Community Transit.

An immediate challenge for the library in 2016 was continuing to provide quality service to the community while being in the middle of a major downtown city revitalization project with land being cleared for redevelopment.


Marguerite Lytle Chase, "The Library Story in Bothell," undated typescript, Friends of the Bothell Library history collection, Bothell Library, Bothell, Washington; Richard Gordon McCloskey, Books in Bothell: The History of the Bothell Library, 1905-1980 (Bothell: Bothell Library Board of Trustees, 1980); "About Bothell Library," King County Library System website accessed May 12, 2016 (; "Bothell Regional Community Study," April 2003, King County Library System website accessed May 26, 2016 (; "Community Discovery Report for the Bothell Library Service Area," May 29, 2013, copy available at Bothell Library, Bothell, Washington; "Bothell Library Service Area, Community Discovery Report Update," August 6, 2014, copy available at Bothell Library; "Celebrate 100 Years of Serving the Community of Bothell," June 2005, KCLS flyer, Bothell Library History binders, Bothell Library; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Bothell -- Thumbnail History" (by David Wilma), "Woodinville -- Thumbnail History (by Phil Dougherty), and "King County Library System" (by Paula Becker), (accessed June 2, 2016); Deborah Stone, "You've Come a Long Way, Baby!," Northlake News, June 20, 2005 (; Ashley Bach, "Library to Celebrate a Century of Memories," The Seattle Times, June 25, 2005, p. B-1; "Bothell City Offices to Move to Library," Ibid., July 17, 1996, p. B-2; "Microsoft to Use Old Bothell Library," Ibid., January 9, 1996, p. B-2; "Bothell Library Dedication Tomorrow," Ibid., October 6, 1995, p. B-2; "Bothell Library to Close During Move," Ibid., August 28, 1995, p. B-2; Charles Aweeka, "'Flagship' Library Draws Red Flag," Ibid., May 28, 1991, p. E-3; "King County Library Favors Regional Plan," Ibid., February 12, 1990, p. C-3; "Regional Library Sought for Bothell," Ibid., January 26, 1990, p. B-3; "Voters Can Offer Remedy for Library Growing Pains, Ibid., October 22, 1986, p. H-4.

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