Kingsgate Library celebrates grand reopening on April 30, 2016.

  • By Michael Schein
  • Posted 10/28/2016
  • Essay 20173

On April 30, 2016, beginning at 9:30 a.m., the Kingsgate Library celebrates its reopening. Part of the King County Library System (KCLS), the Kingsgate Library is housed in a building constructed in 1973 on a one-acre wooded lot at the intersection of NE 143rd Street and 124th Avenue NE in Kirkland. The building closed in May 2015 for a major renovation, and the library has operated for nearly a year in a small temporary facility located across the street. The facility was previously updated in 1991, 1999, and 2006. The grand reopening ceremony, attended by more than 1,000 members of the community, includes a ribbon-cutting, a musical extravaganza with the Marianna Group, and a program for preschoolers about using 9-1-1 emergency services that features Emery the Emergency Penguin.

Planning the Renovation

After a library bond measure in February 2003 did not get the 60 percent supermajority that bond measures require for approval, KCLS directors and staff reassessed how to better meet public needs and to communicate the value of services and resources provided by KCLS. This reassessment was reflected in a revised 2004 library budget and vigorous $172 million bond-measure campaign, which included funds for renovation of Kingsgate Library. In an editorial urging a "yes" vote on the bond measure, The Seattle Times said:

"King County's 43 libraries are heavily used by patrons who have long relied on local branches for more than books, tapes and DVDs. Libraries are community meeting spaces, and providers of computer access for job seekers and kids working on homework. Technology has not changed libraries as much as broadened their utility and raised expectations" ("Yes for King County Library Bonds").

The point about libraries as community meeting spaces was particularly apt for Kingsgate, a mostly residential area far removed from the downtown core of the city of Kirkland. Unlike the 2003 measure, which received a 52 percent majority vote (short of the 60 percent that bond measures require to pass), the 2004 bond was approved with 63.6 percent of the vote. Approval meant that the Kingsgate Library renovation was funded, and planning could begin. However, with many other priority projects also underway, it was some time before work began on the Kingsgate renovation.

The project was designed by Sundberg, Kennedy, Ly-Au Young Architects of Seattle, which has also worked for major local cultural institutions including the Frye Art Museum, Wing Luke Museum, and Seattle Asian Art Museum. At a first public meeting on February 11, 2014, the architects presented preliminary plans, which included two principal alternative designs: the first based on retaining the existing north-facing entryway, and the second based on moving the entryway to the west side, immediately adjacent to the parking lot. At the meeting, the community expressed majority sentiment against moving the entryway, so the final design focused on the first alternative. The community also made clear that it wanted two study rooms, which were worked into the final design. Most importantly, the public input clarified that the community's highest priority was to maximize the library services provided to children.

At a second public meeting on June 11, 2014, final plans were presented by the architects. These plans contained details of arrangement of the stacks, technology, furnishings, children and teen areas, work space, staff lounge, meeting room, study rooms, circulation desk and building utilities. Also presented was a beautiful artist's rendering of the redesigned interior highlighted by a slatted-wood vaulted ceiling through which natural light would flow in from skylights.

The construction contract went to Westmark Construction, Inc. Renovation began at the beginning of May 2015. The library building had to be closed due to the major nature of the renovations. Library services were moved across the street to a small building at 12507 NE 144th Street, Kirkland, located between the Sno-King Ice Arena and the Casino Caribbean. The temporary location provided limited services, including some children's books, holds pickups, public computers, and a copier, but it was only about 600 to 700 square feet in size. Although patrons were advised to use neighboring libraries in Bothell, Kirkland, or Woodinville, the small temporary library continued to be busy, confirming the fact that Kingsgate residents value their local library.

Major Improvements

The renovation completely rebuilt the building's HVAC, electrical, and technological systems to make it more energy-efficient and to ensure the smooth delivery of digital services. The heavily-used computer banks were allotted more space, and a dedicated ADA terminal was added. Seismic upgrades improved safety, and addition of more floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights enhanced the connection of the indoor environment with the natural forest setting. Two study rooms were built in accordance with the public's wishes, and the large glass community meeting room was redesigned to provide increased usable library space when meetings were not in session.

A major improvement was separating the teens' and children's areas to opposite sides of the library, to the benefit of both age groups, which also allowed allocation of more space to the children's area. The new children's area had two dedicated preschool and literacy-game computers, and two general-use internet-filtered computers. A beautiful five-panel mural of children reading with blue sky and clouds floating in the background, by Ann Gates Fiser, was moved to the children's area. But the most striking change was the ceiling, which was vaulted and reconstructed out of ash-colored wood beams through which light fills the library. Hanging from the ceiling was a beautiful avian sculpture of mixed media, wood, and fabric by John Thomas DeNunzio, titled "I Was of Three Minds."

With considerably more than 1,000 people in attendance, the April 30, 2016, grand reopening of the Kingsgate Library was a great success. Circulation numbers roughly doubled following completion of the renovation. It was welcome that the reopening came just before summer, because the very popular children's summer reading program served between 500 to 600 Kingsgate-area children annually. Anticipating the renovation, Jennifer Duffy, who had then been the Kingsgate children's librarian for about 15 years, told a reporter the year before, "Plenty of people meet up here. We actually have people who walk to the library with their little red wagons, so it's like Norman Rockwell" (McCuen).

Sources: Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "King County Library System" (by Paula Becker), (accessed October 7, 2016); "About Kingsgate Library," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed October 6, 2016 (; "Kingsgate Bond Project," KCLS website accessed October 6, 2016 (; "2015 Annual Report," KCLS website accessed September 20, 2016 (; "Kingsgate Library 2009 Community Study," KCLS website accessed September 15, 2016 (; "Kingsgate Library in Kirkland Holds Grand Opening on Saturday Morning," Kirkland Reporter, April 26, 2016 (; "Kingsgate Library Closed for Renovations," Ibid., May 6, 2015 (; Ashley McCuen, "Kingsgate Library Design Team Puts Families First in Renovation," Ibid., June 12, 2015 (; "Yes for King County Library Bonds," The Seattle Times, September 6, 2004, p. B-4; Susan Lanham, "Kingsgate Library Opens as Place for People and Books," Eastside Journal, December 12, 1973, p. D-6; Lorrie Horning, "The Friends of the Kingsgate Library Scrapbook, 1972-1981," Kingsgate Library, Kirkland, Washington; "Work," Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects website accessed October 8, 2016 (; Michael Schein interview with Carlene O'Keefe, Operations Supervisor, Kingsgate Library, September 29, 2016, notes in possession of Michael Schein, Carnation, Washington.

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