King County Youth Services Center Library is dedicated on June 11, 1972.

  • By Fred Poyner IV
  • Posted 1/27/2017
  • Essay 20246
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The King County Youth Services Center (YSC), which houses the county's Juvenile Detention Center, Juvenile Court, and Juvenile Court Services, dedicates its first library on June 11, 1972. The library is the culmination of cooperative efforts begun in 1968 by the King County Library System (KCLS) and four other local agencies to establish a library for youth living in the YSC, which is located at 1211 East Alder Street in Seattle's Central Area neighborhood. Over the four years leading up to the dedication, planning for the library has taken into account changing demographics of the center's juvenile population and the role of the library as a resource to supplement the school program already established on site. Support for the new library is provided by the five partner agencies, with additional funding from the federal government. The library offers a collection of educational and recreational reading materials, music, and supervised programs for youths confined in the YSC.

Lack of a Library

The Youth Service Center (as the name was initially written) included living units both for youth who were admitted for detention owing to Juvenile Court rulings that mandated such terms and for children taken from families and placed into protective care. Although the center opened in 1952, up until 1968 there was no concerted effort to have a library space included in the facility. Resident children had only a limited selection of donated, dilapidated books in the living units to choose from.

The solution came when voters approved a $6.1 million bond issue in November 1968 to fund construction of a new YSC building at the same East Alder Street location. The timing of the funding coincided with a process that had recently been initiated by KCLS Institutional Libraries Coordinator Agnes M. Griffen (b. 1935) to bring representatives from four other agencies -- King County Juvenile Court, the Seattle Public Library, and two local school districts -- together with KCLS to plan for library services at the YSC. The library planning committee was able to incorporate its efforts into plans for the new YSC building funded by the bond issue.

An important factor in planning the new library was the school program at the center, which all children detained 10 days or more were eligible to attend. By 1971, some 600 youths were enrolled there over the school year. Regardless of numbers, the library was to be unique for KCLS: It would not a public library in the sense of being accessible to the general public at large, but instead was designed to serve an audience primarily made up of disenfranchised youth -- those who were detained at the center.

Securing Funds and Planning the Space

In addition to consideration of the center's operations and audiences, the advisory committee worked with the architect for the new YSC building to define the space needed for a library and pursued federal funding to support the library's collection and services. The new space was allocated at 1,600 square feet, with each of the committee members making recommendations for furnishings and equipment to the Juvenile Court administrator. For financial assistance in building the library's collection, the advisory committee obtained $15,000 in two Title II Special Needs Project grants from the U.S. Department of Education to purchase books and other materials.

The federal funding spurred KCLS to agree to provide administrative supervision of the YSC library program, pay for half of the salary cost for a full-time librarian (with King County Juvenile Court funding the remainder of the salary), provide additional professional librarians as needed in children's and young-adult services at the library, provide access to its collection through requests and loans, and provide a one-time $2,000 grant to pay for recreational reading books.

Within the 1,600-square-foot library space identified by the architect, plans were made for a main reading room with open seating at tables and bookshelves readily accessible along the walls. A librarian's office and a small workroom would supplement the shared reading room space. A lack of clear communication between the advisory committee and the architect did result in some drawbacks and oversights: Book shelving was not built-in as needed, windows occupied wall space where bookshelves otherwise might have been placed, and racks for paperback books were not ordered and were consequently late to arrive.

Serving a Youthful Population

Collections were acquired with the library's youthful patrons clearly in mind. Ninety-six periodical subscriptions were ordered, along with paperbacks on topics ranging from pop music to motorcycles, science fiction, civil rights, the "counterculture" (it was the early 1970s), and even joke books. These were complemented by some of the federal Title II funding, which paid for books about science, social sciences, arts and crafts, ethnic studies, remedial language arts, and an assortment of phonograph records (soul music was noted as a popular choice). Poetry books and jigsaw puzzles were also popular selections for the new library.

The new Youth Services Center Library was formally dedicated on June 11, 1972, and thereafter was available seven days a week for supervised use. The first KCLS librarian to serve at the YSC Library was Susan Brooks Madden (b. 1944), who even before the library opened had overseen the final stages of its preparation, from the arrangement of the paperbacks by subject to getting contractors back on schedule for deliveries of furnishings and supply. Madden served as the librarian until 1980, when she became the Young Adult Services Coordinator for KCLS.

Over subsequent decades, the library was relocated twice within the YSC building while continuing to serve the young people confined at the center. As of early 2017, plans were underway to replace the aging and dilapidated Youth Services Center with a new Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC), which would include space for a new 1,800-square-foot library to serve the resident population.


Eleanor F. Klepeis, "A Case Study in Library Cooperation ... The King County Youth Service Center," Library Journal, April 15, 1973, pp. 1359-1363; "Children and Family Justice Center," January 28, 2016, King County website accessed December 6, 2016 (; Fred Poyner IV, interview with Jill Morrison, Youth Service Center Librarian, December 5, 2016, Seattle, transcript in possession of Fred Poyner IV, Issaquah, Washington.

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