Shoreline Library, King County Library System

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 12/13/2016
  • Essay 20237
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While the Shoreline area's first libraries were at Richmond Beach and Richmond Highlands, the Shoreline Library's direct roots go back to 1947, when a community library was set up in a small war-surplus building that served a growing community for more than a decade. The Shoreline Library Guild formed in 1960 to raise funds for a new building but, while community support was strong, the guild was only able to raise enough money to purchase a site, hire architects, and begin construction, which was halted in 1961 for lack of funds. The Shoreline Library annexed to the King County Library System (KCLS) in 1965, making more funding available, and the building was completed in 1966. It was expanded and remodeled in 1975. A new and larger library was built in 1993 on the same site at 345 NE 175th Street. The Shoreline Library benefitted from a KCLS bond measure in 2004 that funded enlarging the parking lot and adding an outdoor meeting area and outdoor art panels. The work was completed in October 2007. The Shoreline Library is one of the busiest in the King County Library System.

Starting Small

The city of Shoreline -- one of Seattle's closest suburbs -- shares its early history with the nearby communities of Richmond Beach, Richmond Highlands, and south Snohomish County, which from the 1880s on were settled by homesteaders, farmers, and loggers. Railroads brought increased development to the Shoreline area, the Great Northern in 1891 connecting the community to downtown Seattle. An electric interurban railway ran between Everett and Tacoma beginning in 1912 but closed in 1939. The completion of Highway 99 through the area in 1928 and the growing popularity of the automobile encouraged suburban development in Shoreline, a name first used for the area's school district, whose boundaries extended from the shore of Puget Sound to the shore of Lake Washington between N 145th Street and the Snohomish County line.

The earliest library movement in the area that would become Shoreline began at Richmond Beach in 1899 and, after a dozen years sharing space in other buildings, the area's first standalone library opened there in 1912. The Richmond Beach Library in January 1944 became the second library to join the King County Library System, which had been created a year earlier as the King County Rural Library District. A Richmond Highlands Library opened in 1944, the work of the Ronald Council of Parents and Teachers and the Volunteer Firemen's Association. Two years later it moved to N 183rd Street between Aurora Avenue N and Linden Avenue N.

But more library services were needed and in 1947 the Richmond Highlands Association moved a 450-square-foot World War II building from Paine Field in Snohomish County and set it up as a library on the grounds of the Ronald Methodist Church at N 178th between Aurora Avenue N and Linden Avenue N. While the library's book collection filled the main area, periodicals were shelved in what once had been a kitchen and grounds maintenance equipment was stored in the lavatory. A library advisory board was chosen and Louella Sprintels served as librarian.

Finding Funds and Joining KCLS

By 1960 the old barracks building was both gloomy and inadequate for a rapidly growing suburban community. Library technology was changing as well and the Shoreline Library needed to be bigger and more modern. The Shoreline Library Guild was formed that year to plan construction of a new facility. Board member Barbara Sand took the lead in efforts to raise $45,000 for acquisition of a site and to hire an architect. Library supporters wrote and distributed an informational pamphlet titled "Our Vanishing Library" to boost the campaign. The board obtained a conditional-use permit to allow the library to be built in a residential area and three lots were purchased at East 174th and 50th Ave NE. KCLS promised a book collection and staff if Shoreline provided the site and a building. Architects James Bell and Donald Greve drew plans for a two-story modular structure, with an adult collection to be located on the main floor and a children's department and community room on the second level.

A fund drive was initiated in 1961 with the goal of raising $90,000 for the new Shoreline Library and $7,000 for an extension of the Richmond Beach Library, a joint effort by the two libraries that served the Shoreline School District. Residents were enthusiastic and supportive, donating enough money to begin construction, but fundraising hit a wall at about $42,000, which was well under the amount needed to complete the project, so construction stopped. A new state law that year authorized local improvement districts (LID) for library construction in rural communities. The Shoreline Library board established an LID to help fund a $100,000 Shoreline Library, but residents who did not want the library funded through extra taxation challenged the LID measure, which was eventually struck down by the state supreme court.

In 1964 the Federal Library Services and Construction Act of 1957 was amended to extend library services to rural areas, making federal dollars available to finally complete the Shoreline Library project. The federal funding would come through KCLS and, in order to receive it, ownership of the land and building had to be turned over to KCLS. The Shoreline Library annexed into KCLS in 1965. The new Shoreline Library was dedicated on Sunday, December 4, 1966. It was the first in the system to be designated by KCLS as an area reference center. (Similar centers would soon open at Bellevue, Burien and Kent). With a state-of-the-art library in Shoreline, the nearby Richmond Highlands Library closed and its staff was reassigned to Shoreline.

The 1966 library building served the community for many years. Within a decade, it needed to be expanded, and in 1974 a temporary library was established in a church building while a $550,000 expansion project, designed by architecture firm Alfred H. Croonquist and Associates, got underway. Completed in 1975, the work increased the floor space to 15,540 square feet, doubling the previous size. With the additional room, it was possible to increase the library collection by 60,000 items. In December 1986 the Shoreline Library celebrated its 20th anniversary with a rededication ceremony. KCLS director Herbert F. Mutschler (1919-2001) was among the scheduled speakers on the program, which also included refreshments and musical entertainment.

A Larger Library

Libraries were changing rapidly in the 1980s. There was an increasing demand for more general reference materials and services, music in several formats, movies, more periodicals, books on tape, and even toys and tools. Residents also wanted more meeting space. In 1988 King County voters approved a $67 million library bond measure with nearly 64 percent of the votes in favor. The bond issue included $5.3 million for a new Shoreline Library, which was high on the list of KCLS priorities. By 1991 the Shoreline Library had become one of the system's busiest, with an annual circulation of nearly 400,000 items, and KCLS began planning a new library, which would be built on the same site as the existing building.

Adjoining property was purchased to provide room for a larger building and more parking, and the firms Johnston Architects and the Portico Group were hired to design the new library. In preparation for demolition and new construction, the Shoreline Library closed for two weeks in August 1992 to move half of its collection into a former bingo parlor that was used as a temporary library during construction. The remaining half of the collection was placed in storage. During the two-week closure before the temporary library opened, patrons used the nearby Lake Forest Park and Richmond Beach libraries. Once the books and furnishings were removed, work crews demolished the old two-story library on NE 175th Street and started building the new one-story structure. The new 20,000 square-foot Shoreline Library opened on September 12, 1993.

The City of Shoreline incorporated in 1995 and the Shoreline Library Advisory Board was formed that year to provide information and advice regarding both libraries within the new city's boundaries -- Shoreline and Richmond Beach. The board also functioned as a liaison between city officials and residents and KCLS.

A New Century

The Shoreline Library benefitted from a 2004 KCLS bond issue that included $2.3 million for an outdoor expansion project that was designed by architects Hutteball & Oremus and built by Pellco Construction. Three lots to the west of the library parcel were acquired, making it possible to increase the parking lot to 14,000 square feet and add 36 parking spaces, bringing the total to 118. The work also redesigned the existing parking configuration to better accommodate larger vehicles like SUVs. Other improvements included a small outdoor meeting area and decorative panels on the library's retaining wall facing 175th Street. The project was completed in October 2007.

By 2010, when the city's population topped 53,000, the Shoreline Library had become one of the largest in the King County Library System. Located near Interstate 5 and its connecting arterials, Shoreline's library service area extends well beyond the city boundaries. Reciprocal borrowing arrangements with neighboring communities that are outside the KCLS service area and tax base bring the Shoreline Library some users from North Seattle and others from southern portions of Snohomish County.

Shoreline is primarily a residential bedroom community, with a balance of ages and many services for children and teens. But the city also has an unusually high number of service agencies for the disabled, including Fircrest Residential Habilitation Center, the Northwest School for the Hearing Impaired, the Cerebral Palsy Residential Center, the Shoreline Center for Human Services, and many adult family homes. The library provides a traveling program for homebound patrons and service agencies. At the library there are a multitude of programs to serve a diverse community. Offerings span all age ranges. There are Story Times for preschoolers and a wide variety of school-year and summer programs for students. For adults, Shoreline offers business counseling and computer and basic income-tax assistance and other programs designed for seniors.


"Community Study, Shoreline Library, November 2004," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed November 10, 2016 (; "About Shoreline Library," KCLS website accessed November 10, 2016 (; "About Richmond Beach Library," KCLS website accessed November 20, 2016 (; "Delivering on a Promise to Voters: KCLS Capital Improvement Plan 12-Year Report, September 2016" KCLS website accessed November 10, 2016 (, p. 33; "Benefit Dance for Shoreline," The Seattle Times, September 22, 1960, p. 20; Dee Walker Jones, "Housewife Promotes Library," Ibid., October 6, 1960, p. 37; "North King County Library Projects Planned," Ibid., March 5, 1961, Pacific Northwest magazine, p. 14; "Shoreliners Wrangle Over Library Plan," Ibid., July 26, 1962, p. 2; "Court Calls for Hearing on Shoreline Library Plan," Ibid., November 15, 1962, p. 27; Bob Lane, "Library Waits on Court Ruling," Ibid., November 21, 1963, p. 61; "Shoreline Library Will Be Built," Ibid., April 13, 1966, p. 26; "Shoreline Library Will Be Dedicated Sunday," Ibid., November 30, 1966, p. 5; "Library Guilds," Ibid., March 6, 1967, p. S-5; "Library Dedication Set Today," Ibid., October 19, 1975, p. D-2; "Library Will Mark Its 20th Anniversary, "Ibid., December 3, 1986, p. H-2; "Shoreline Library to Move Works During Construction, "Ibid., June 25, 1992, p. F-2; Online Encyclopedia of Washington History, "Shoreline -- Thumbnail History" (by Alan Stein), "King County Library System" (by Paula Becker), and "Interurban Rail Transit in King County and the Puget Sound Region" (by Walt Crowley) (accessed September 20, 2016); "Shoreline History," City of Shoreline website accessed November 14, 2016 (
Note: This essay was corrected on April 18, 2017.

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