Delridge Branch, The Seattle Public Library

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 9/10/2008
  • Essay 8769
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The Delridge Branch, The Seattle Public Library, located in West Seattle at 5423 Delridge Way SW, was the third branch to open under the "Libraries for All" building program, a $196.4 million bond measure passed by Seattle voters in November 1998. The new branch opened on June 29, 2002, and replaced a small self-service library located in the Southwest Youth and Family Services Center. The branch serves as a center for a very diverse neighborhood. It anchors the first floor of a three-story building that includes 19 apartments for lower-income residents. The $3 million building was constructed in partnership with the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association.

The Delridge Neighborhood

The West Seattle neighborhood, located near the Duwamish Waterway and the Youngstown Steel plant, traditionally comprised several small neighborhoods populated by "steelworkers, shipbuilders and immigrants" (Langston). It was a low-income area divided by ethnic diversity and, in recent decades, challenged by neglect. Longtime resident Vivian McLean recalled the neighborhood (she arrived in 1948) in an oral history interview:

"We had everything here. We had three grocery stores, two meat markets, hardware, and just about everything you needed was at this town. ... There were many more people. A lot of them worked for the steel mill, though many of them also worked down in the fisheries and the port and so on. There were hundreds of children.  When I said I had four children, it was only four children because there were so many that had many more children. None of them that I knew were new immigrants.  Down on Riverside, which is part of Delridge once you got into Cooper School, there were Yugoslavians and they were fisherman, mostly. But that was another little town that had two hotels and a tavern and gas station and so on. ... Around the steel mill, there were Italians ... . Here on the Point, it was mostly Swedish and Norwegians.  There were two churches on Pigeon Point. One was a Salvation Army that was still very active. And across the street from that was a Congregational church that had closed and was no longer.  In fact, it belonged to the union from the steel mill. We would have caucuses there. That’s what it was used for -- union work and then for these Democratic caucuses ... ." (McLean).

Forty years ago McLean, a staunch neighborhood activist, attempted to get city approval for a library. She was rebuffed because people in Delridge "didn't read" (Langston).

Times have changed and the Delridge neighborhood is changing. The Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1996, had the goal of "creating and maintaining a thriving community in an area of mostly lower income households" (Ervin). After the "Libraries for All" bond passed in 1998, the association talked the Seattle Public Library board into adding a new Delridge Branch to its capital plan. The association partnered with the library in securing land and designing the building, called the Delridge Branch/Vivian McLean Place.

The Delridge Branch

The new library cost $3 million to build and has 5,600 square feet of space. It opened on June 29, 2002. It was designed by Stickney Murphy Romine Architects and built by Walsh Construction Co. The branch uses heavy concrete and has high-tech finishes, whereas the homes above "have a warmer feel" ("About the Delridge Branch"). The branch has a collection of 20,000 books and other materials. It provides reading and study areas for children and young adults, a meeting room, and 11 computers.

Artists Nick Lyle and Jean Whitesavage created the building's artwork, embellishing the building with sculptures of native plants.

As the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association expresses it:

"Averaging a thousand visitors each day, the Delridge Library is a tremendous place with a community room, internet access on numerous computers, CDs, DVDs and, oh yea, lots of books" (Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association website).

Branch librarians at Delridge:

  • Brian Bannon (2002-2003)
  • Cass Mabbott (2003-2004)
  • Daria Cal (2004-2005)
  • Karen Spiel (2005-present)

Sources: "Delridge Branch: Libraries for All Construction Fact Sheet," and "About the Delridge Branch," The Seattle Public Library website accessed September 10, 2008 (; Phuong Cat Le, "Check It Out: Delridge Library Branch to Open Ahead of Schedule, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 20, 2002 (; Jennifer Langston, "Delridge: Neighborhood on the Rise, Ibid., February 12, 2005; Keith Ervin, "Group Wants to Make School Part of Neighborhood Again," The Seattle Times, April 1, 2002; "Delridge History," Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association website accessed September 10, 2008 (; Judy Bentley interview with Vivian McLean, April 21, 2004, Cooper School Oral History Project (; "Community Development," Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association website accessed September 10, 2008 (; Karen Spiel email to Priscilla Long, September 10, 2008, in possession of, Seattle Washington.

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