In response to requests by homeowners in the Redmond Ridge development located east of the city of Redmond, the King County Library System (KCLS) and the Redmond Ridge Residential Owners Association worked together to create an unstaffed automated "library express" at Redmond Ridge, which opened on November 7, 2009. Redmond Ridge, then known as Northridge, had been a sparsely populated area of logging, horse farms, and recreational uses until 1998, when the name was changed and work began on the first Redmond Ridge planned community. Redmond Ridge was rapidly transformed over the next 15 years into a significant housing and shopping hub, with a population of 18,800 residents. Due to traffic delays at times of peak travel, residents of Redmond Ridge expressed a preference for picking up their library holds at a facility close to their homes. The Redmond Ridge Library Express made this possible, which in turn helped to reduce further traffic growth on the busy roads and to minimize the new development's impact on existing libraries.
Early History of the Redmond Ridge Area
Redmond Ridge, previously known as Northridge, is an area of unincorporated King County atop a ridge bounded on the west by Union Hill, which drops down to the city of Redmond, and on the east by the steep slope down to the Snoqualmie River Valley known as Novelty Hill; it extends northward from Union Hill Road on the south past Novelty Hill Road to encompass the Redmond Watershed Preserve and the Trilogy at Redmond Ridge development.
The area that would become the City of Redmond in 1912 was first settled in 1871. By the turn of the twentieth century, Redmond's population was only 271. Meanwhile, the little towns of Duvall (originally Cherry Valley), Novelty ( an unsuccessful would-be town at the bottom of Novelty Hill), and Carnation (then known as Tolt), were small outposts of settlement in a stretch of the Snoqualmie Valley extending from northeast to southeast of the high ground then known as Northridge. But the large forested tracts of ridge land, relatively far removed from the rivers and lakes, were not as fertile as the river bottoms and therefore, from the perspective of small family farmers, not worth the backbreaking labor necessary to clear them of all trees and stumps. They were worth something to the big logging companies, however, and around the turn of the twentieth century, the Weyerhaeuser Company purchased 1,500 acres of this ridgetop timberland for logging.
Logging operations helped feed the mills and populate the saloons of Redmond. Between and then after logging operations, the area now known as Redmond Ridge spent most of the twentieth century as a sparsely populated region of horse farms, hiking paths, wildlife habitat, and hunting cabins. But even before the high-tech boom provided the primary rationale for development, Weyerhaeuser's real-estate-development subsidiary, Quadrant Homes, had been exploring the possibility of developing Northridge as early as 1979.
Boom Times and a Controversial Development Plan
With the arrival of Nintendo in 1982, followed soon thereafter by Microsoft in 1986, Redmond experienced a population boom. The population went from fewer than 1,500 in 1960 to 41,000 in 1996, and then 52,000 by 2009. In addition, 2009 statistics showed that approximately 90,000 employees came into Redmond on a regular basis, and therefore the demand for housing in the area around the city was high. The unincorporated area of King County to the east of Redmond now known as Redmond Ridge was one of the last large undeveloped areas in King County potentially available for a large master-planned development.
Despite the apparent need for housing near Redmond, development of the ridge area was controversial. Weyerhaeuser officials seen hovering over the area in helicopters were derided by locals as "corporate cowboys" ("The Snoqualmie Valley"). Clumsy efforts by a big PR firm hired by Quadrant that resulted in an image of golfer Jack Nicklaus (b. 1940) teeing off being used as the cover image of the environmental impact statement for the proposed development only exacerbated fears about big crowds and dramatic changes to the relatively pristine character of the ridge. At least four lawsuits were filed and opposition was expressed at public hearings by a number of citizen's groups, including Friends of the Law, the Coalition for Public Trust, Like Hell You Will, and Communities Against Urban Sprawl.
The main arguments of the opponents were that isolated pockets of urban development beyond the urban growth boundary that King County had established, as required by the state Growth Management Act, were illegal; the the project's traffic and transit plans were not done properly; and that King County Councilmember Chris Vance (b. 1962) should have disqualified himself for conflict of interest because his relatives worked for Weyerhaeuser, rather than voting to approve the project. Quadrant argued that because more than half of the 1,000-acre project area was being preserved as open space, it met the goals of the Growth Management Act. One appeal even reached the Washington State Supreme Court, which in June 1999 ruled 9-0 in favor of sending the urban-density decision back to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board. But on June 15, 2000, the Board ruled 2-1 in favor of Quadrant, which effectively put an end to legal challenges.
Not pausing for the appeals that were still pending, Quadrant began roughing out roads in 1998. Ground was broken in 1999 on the initial phase of the development that Quadrant, in response to focus-group studies, named "Redmond Ridge." As a master planned community, Redmond Ridge was built with single family homes, condominiums, townhomes, apartments, retail, an elementary school named after civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks (1913-2005), and a business park. By the summer of 2006, Redmond Ridge had built out 1,228 residential units. Then Trilogy at Redmond Ridge developed a 1,080 acre complex across Novelty Hill Road to the north of Redmond Ridge, with single-family homes and townhouses for the 55-or-older market, anchored by a golf course, tennis courts, and a 32,000-square-foot clubhouse that housed a swimming pool, fitness center, and spa.
In early 2008, after Quadrant sold Redmond Ridge East to Bellevue developer Murray Franklyn, and an agreement for road improvements was made with King County, construction began on what proved to be the third and final major Redmond Ridge development. Redmond Ridge East featured high-end single-family homes with price tags in the range of $1 million, as well as more modestly priced homes, apartments and town houses. When the dust settled in 2013, there were a total of 4,500 condominiums, town homes, apartment units, single-family and seniors-only homes on Redmond Ridge, with a population of 18,800.
Creation of the Redmond Ridge Library Express
As portions of Redmond Ridge were completed, the common areas were turned over to the Redmond Ridge Residential Owners Association (RRROA) and the association became responsible -- among other things -- for recreational and cultural activities in the common buildings. With traffic on Novelty Hill and Union Hill roads quite heavy at rush hour, local residents expressed an interest in having library service available immediately in their new community. In response to a contact by the homeowners association, KCLS staff met with ridge-area community groups and informally surveyed existing library patrons living on Redmond Ridge. "An overwhelming 95 percent of respondents said that they would prefer to pick up their holds at an un-staffed location on Redmond Ridge rather than drive to a full service branch" ("Library Express: Expanding KCLS Library Services").
At that point, planning began in earnest. However, the request came too late for Redmond Ridge to be included in the 2004 county-wide library bond, so building a new full-service library was not realistic at that time. Furthermore, the fact that Redmond Ridge was little more than 10 minutes away from two existing KCLS libraries: Redmond Library (12 minutes) and Duvall Library (11 minutes) -- in travel times measured without traffic -- militated against building a separate full-service library at Redmond Ridge.
In 2008 KCLS included funding in its operating budget to explore placement of a so-called "library express" -- an unstaffed, automated mini-library with limited services -- on Redmond Ridge. At the same time, KCLS was examining whether to build a similar facility in Woodinville. The Woodinville project was not pursued, which left only the library express at Redmond Ridge.
KCLS explored the possibility of putting the new facility in the Redmond Ridge shopping center, which was anchored by a QFC grocery store and had quite a few successful retail, restaurant, and health care businesses. When that proved to be too expensive, KCLS staff met with the homeowners association and reached an agreement under which the library would be able to lease a part of the RRROA main office building, located at 10735 Cedar Park Crescent NE, at a favorable rate.
Opening, Services, and Usage
Designed by Bob Johnson, KCLS Construction Coordinator, the 300-square-foot facility was constructed within the south end of the RRROA office building. Renovation of the space began in August 2009. On Saturday, November 7, 2009, the Redmond Ridge Library Express opened its doors for a special sneak-peek preview event. It then officially opened for regular business on Monday, November 9, 2009.
The Redmond Ridge Library Express is an unstaffed limited-service library facility. Outside the entry are two book-drop bins. When the library express opened there was only one, but it was soon overflowing and materials were exposed to the weather, so a second was added. Entry is separate from the main entrance to the RRROA offices. To enter the library, patrons scan their library barcodes and enter their PIN numbers at the door.
Once inside patrons can pick up books or other library materials on which they have placed holds, which can be done from home on the library's website catalog. While picking up holds is the main service provided, the Library Express also has a small display of Choice Reads books for browsing and on-the-spot checkout. At first there were children's and teen materials for browsing, but that service was later discontinued. The Redmond Ridge Library Express also has a computer connected only to the library catalog and an automated self-checkout station. Next to each is a red wall phone to connect directly to the Redmond Library information desk and, if needed, to a KCLS reference librarian.
As of late 2016, the Redmond Ridge Library Express was open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week, except during RRROA meetings. Two kinds of KCLS staff visit daily: first shipping staff pick up the book-drop bins (which are then delivered to Redmond Library for processing), and drop off bins of requested holds; and second, operations staff to shelve the holds and update the Choice Reads displays.
The keypad entry system, combined with security cameras inside and out, has provided adequate security, and KCLS has experienced only very minimal problems with vandalism. The Redmond Ridge Library Express can be monitored in real time from the Redmond Library. The Redmond Ridge facility has been well used by the community. In 2015 its circulation was 89,694, which was higher than six other KCLS libraries. During that time its foot-traffic count was 7,922. By saving so many trips down the road to Redmond or Duvall, the Redmond Ridge Library Express was contributing to the quality of life of Redmond Ridge residents, reducing crowding and freeing up parking at nearby libraries, and helping to protect the environment by reducing traffic on the ridge, in the towns, and on the roads in between.