After expansion and renovation the Magnolia Branch, The Seattle Public Library, reopens on July 12, 2008.

  • By Tom Brown
  • Posted 9/03/2008
  • Essay 8764
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On July 12, 2008, the Magnolia Branch of The Seattle Public Library reopened after a $4.4 million expansion and renovation. The branch, located at 2801 34th Avenue W,  was the last of 27 projects completed under Seattle’s “Libraries for All” project.  In all, 14 branches were renovated, nine buildings were replaced, and four new branches were built in the decade after 1998 when voters approved the $196.4 million bond.

The 44-year-old Magnolia Branch grew in size more than 20 percent to 7,799 square feet to include a new meeting room and a small study room. Also available to patrons are more computers (19 instead of 11) and more books and other materials (about 37,000 items).

The original branch, designed by noted Seattle architect Paul Hayden Kirk, was considered a major example of Northwest design and was designated a landmark building by Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board. The new addition was designed by SHKS Architects in keeping with the original structure. Construction was by Graham Contracting Ltd., beginning in May 2007.

Renovation work included replacing the roof and decayed structural wood and aging mechanical-system components; upgrading technology services, equipment and ventilation; improving electrical, communication and computer connections; and adding energy-efficient window glass.

Furniture designed by master craftsman George Nakashima was refinished as part of the project. Meyer Wells, a Magnolia furniture shop, made a table and bench for the branch from a walnut tree that failed to survive winter storms in 2006.

Bainbridge Island artist Kristin Tollefson designed a pair of site-specific sculptures called "Catch + Release" for the building.

The Magnolia Branch had been slated for renovation only, but in 2000 the Magnolia Community Club successfully proposed using money from the Opportunity Fund, part of a parks levy, to expand the branch.


“About the Magnolia Branch” The Seattle Public Library website accessed September 3, 2009 (; Sean Rose, “Magnolia Library Branch Reopens, the Last in Seattle's Libraries for All Project,” The Seattle Times, July 12, 2008 (

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