On September 28, 1991, the City of Enumclaw's new public library building is dedicated. The project was made possible when city voters approved a local library bond issue after two earlier proposals failed. The city library has outgrown the previous building, built in 1954, due to population increase and growing use of the library by city residents and non-residents alike. The new 10,541-square-foot building is located on the former right-of-way of the Burlington Northern Railroad at the corner of Griffin Avenue and Railroad Street. The dedication includes a slide presentation on early Enumclaw, comments from Enumclaw officials and library staff, and unveiling of the new building's unique brick artwork. The library will be funded and operated by the city until 2012, when local voters approve annexing the Enumclaw Library to the King County Library System (KCLS).
Planning and Funding the New Library
The Burlington Northern right-of-way on which the new library was ultimately built had been purchased by the city in 1983 as the site for a project known as Town Center. The Library Board requested the acquired land be used for the new library and that request was incorporated in the Town Center plan. Building plans were underway in 1988 with the new library portion included. In order to fund the new library, a $1.25 million city bond issue was proposed for the September 20, 1988, election ballot.
The plan was not without dispute, however. On June 27, 1988, the city council voted to seek other sites for the new library instead of agreeing to the Town Center site and placing the bond measure on the ballot. The local Friends of the Library group presented the city council with a petition containing 199 signatures supporting the proposed library site. Ultimately, on July 27, 1988, the city council voted 5 to 2 to approve sending the library bond issue to city voters. On the day the city council voted, the Enumclaw Courier Herald editorialized:
"By not knuckling under to fears that Enumclaw was wasting a prime retail corner, the council made a statement that a library is an important part of the quality of life here and deserves a prime location to best serve both Enumclaw residents and visitors. The city isn't wasting a retail spot. It is gaining facility that will bring people downtown today and help them be more informed and better citizens tomorrow. The more attractive ... the library's location, the more people it will draw and the better off everyone will be" ("Library Lands ...").
However, on September 20, 1988, the bond measure failed narrowly. The final count was 807 votes in favor to 545 opposed, giving the measure 59.7 percent, just barely under the 60 percent supermajority that bond measures require for approval. Library supporters tried again on May 16, 1989. On the second attempt, voters approved the library bond -- or so they thought. Due to a proofreader's mistake, a key phrase was missed in the official title of the library bond issue. So the bond measure went to voters once more, on November 7, 1989. The third time was a charm and the Enumclaw voters approved the bond issue with 825 votes in favor to 482 against, exceeding the required supermajority with 63.1 percent in favor, after 14 months and three elections.
On August 21, 1990, a rainy day, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. Activities surrounding the long-awaited groundbreaking included an essay contest in which kids 12 or under answered the question "why our new library is important to me." Designed by Lewis/Nelson Architects, the building was constructed by by contractors Jensen Sand and Gravel, Inc. (Phase I) and Federal Construction Company (Phase II).
On September 21, 1991, more than 40,000 items were moved to the new building by volunteers (with some professional assistance). On September 28, 1991, a dedication ceremony and open house celebrated the opening of the new Enumclaw Library. The new building was built to resemble an old train depot. The brochure for the dedication ceremony described its features:
"The 10,541 square foot building is located on the former right-of-way of the Burlington Northern Railroad. Not far from the new front entrance of the library stood two railroad stations that played an important role in Enumclaw history. If you're quiet, you can almost hear the train whistle blow. The library is designed to provide the user with a comfortable environment to use the many resources available. A fifty-seat public meeting room can be used for library sponsored programs or reserved for meetings. Quiet study space and access to a personal computer are provided just off the main reading area. The south wall of the building features a 15' x 6' panel of carved brick by Mara Smith and Kris King. The mural depicts highlights of Enumclaw Plateau history and life" ("Enumclaw Public Library Dedication ...").
The dedication festivities featured slide presentations of the early years, storytelling, a performance of the play The Odd Couple, and a band. Mayor Keith Blackburn, President of the Library Board David Berner, librarian Robert Baer (d. 2004), and Myron Lewis of Lewis/Nelson Architects were all on hand. Longtime library supporter Eleanor D. Adoll Englund (d. 2000) unveiled the brick mural.
Twenty-one years later in 2012, Enumclaw voters approved the Enumclaw Library's annexation to the King County Library System. As of 2016 it is the most recent library to annex to KCLS.