Sammamish's first library opens on December 15, 1998.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 2/23/2017
  • Essay 20302
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On December 15, 1998, after a decade of planning and a year of construction, Sammamish's first library opens. Part of the King County Library System (KCLS), it is located at 825 228th Avenue NE in the soon-to-be incorporated city of Sammamish and replaces a temporary location at a nearby shopping center that has been primarily used to pick up and drop off books. Soaring population growth and rapid technological changes will strain the library's capacity within a decade. It will close on December 13, 2009, with its much larger, modern replacement opening in the Sammamish Commons less than a month later.

A Temporary Station

Though there had been scattered development on and around the Sammamish Plateau since the late nineteenth century, the community that developed into modern-day Sammamish didn't get its start until the 1960s. By the late 1980s the plateau's population had passed 10,000, and projections forecast continuing rapid growth. More residents were getting tired of traveling to Issaquah or Redmond to reach a library and began asking for one on the Sammamish Plateau.

A bond measure approved by voters in 1988 included funds for construction of a new library on the plateau. By 1990 the King County Library System had identified a site on the northwest corner of NE Inglewood Hill Road and 228th Avenue NE, and it purchased more than four acres there in 1992. (KCLS subsequently sold part of the land, leaving 2.1 acres for the library.) A library was originally scheduled to be built by 1995, but construction was delayed. As a temporary measure KCLS opened the Sammamish Station in April 1994 in the Sammamish Highlands Shopping Center at 720 228th Avenue NE (roughly where Mod Pizza was later located). The little storefront room with two computers and a small collection of books was mainly used to drop off books or pick up holds without having to go to Redmond or Issaquah.

A Library at Last

The Sammamish Friends of the Library formed in 1995 to help raise funds and provide community support for a library. Founders Sandy Livingston and Debbie Morgan got the ball rolling that May with a meeting with KCLS Director Bill Ptacek  (b. 1951), and though more delays followed (obtaining a building permit took more than a year), by the end of 1997 all was at last ready. A 10,000-square-foot building was designed by Johnston Architects and the Portico Group of Seattle, and the $3.5 million construction contract was awarded to Richard Hoffman of Kassel Construction. (Hoffman maintained his office in Redmond but, coincidentally, lived only a mile or so from the building site.)

On December 13, 1997, members of the King County Council and County Executive Ron Sims (b. 1948) --Sammamish was not yet a city in 1997, and the county appropriated funding for the project -- joined about 150 Sammamish-area residents and others for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the site. After a pause for the winter, construction began in April 1998 and proceeded on schedule.

By December nearly all was ready. Some 150 volunteers, including members of the Friends of the Library, spent three days helping staff stock the library and it opened with a short ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on December 15, 1998. Preschoolers, some barely bigger than the extra-large scissors they used, cut the ribbon. Letting these children cut the ribbon was a gesture recognizing the library's focus on families and children, since approximately a third of Sammamish's population was under 18. After the ribbon was cut, Sammamish Friends of the Library founder Sandy Livingston, smiling broadly, opened the library doors to the public.

Growing Fast

The attractive new building featured high windows and a partially vaulted roof. The Sammamish Review wrote that its "sleek, silver roof and clean look" was to some extent designed to reflect the lives of its users, many who had technology jobs ("One for the Books"), although a few naysayers found the look a little plain and grumbled about it to the newspaper. The total cost of completion, which included furnishing the library with materials and equipment, was $5.3 million. The new library held 47,000 items, mostly books, and it had 16 computers, a study room, and a larger meeting room. Parking was on the north side of the library, but the parking lot was hard to get to as it could only be accessed from one direction.

Sammamish added more than 10,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, straining the library's capacity. By 2007 it had nearly doubled its collection of books and other items and had added more computers, but it struggled to keep up. By 2007 the City of Sammamish was planning for a new library, and in October of that year city officials approved a deal to sell KCLS a 3.9-acre parcel of land. Ground for the new library was broken there in December 1998, and on December 13, 2009, almost 11 years to the day after it opened, Sammamish's first library closed its doors. The new Sammamish Library opened a month later.


"Engage: Sammamish Library 2007 Community Study," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed January 8, 2017 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Sammamish Library, King County Library System" (by Phil Dougherty), (accessed February 23, 2017); Linda Thielke, "Construction to Begin on First Library for Plateau," Eastside Journal (Bellevue), December 12, 1997, pp. A-1, A-6; Grace Reamer, "Celebrating with Shovels," Sammamish Review, January 1998, pp. 2-3; "One for the Books," Ibid., January 1999, pp. 4-7.

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