On December 6, 2014, an estimated 500 people attend the "grand reopening" of the newly expanded Fairwood Library, just east of Renton. The library has been operating in a temporary storefront location since September 2013, while undergoing an $8 million expansion and renovation funded by a 2004 King County Library System (KCLS) bond issue. The expansion takes the library from 15,000 to 20,000 square feet. The project also includes a comprehensive renovation of the interior and infrastructure. The reopening festivities begin at 9:30 a.m. with a choir performance, remarks from dignitaries, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The celebration also includes remarks from Walter Schacht, the architect who designed the airy, glass-enclosed space. The event concludes with the opening of the library doors at 10 a.m., when Fairwood patrons stream in to see their gleaming new library.
A Complex Project
The Fairwood Library began in 1964 as the Vista Library, operating in the Cascade-Spring Glen Community Club. In 1986, KCLS opened the new $1.5 million Fairwood Library at 17009 140th Avenue SE, about a mile east of the old Vista Library. The Fairwood Library was remodeled in 2006, yet because of massive population growth in Fairwood, KCLS embarked on an expansion project in 2011, as part of the $172 million capital bond issue approved by the county's voters in 2004.
When work began in September 2013, the Fairwood Library moved to a temporary storefront home in the Fairwood Shopping Center at 14238 SE 176th Street. This 1,500-square-foot space was only about one-tenth the size of the existing library, but it provided a place for patrons to pick up materials, use a few public computers, and browse a small number of shelves. Patrons who needed more service were directed to nearby KCLS libraries in Maple Valley, Covington, Renton, and Kent. "We hope all will be patient with us. When it gets done, it will be beautiful and they'll love it," said Greg Smith, KCLS Director of Facilities Management Services & Development ("Fairwood Library Begins Move").
The project involved what the designers called a complex combination of "new and old building systems" and "included the complete demolition of the interior and more than 50 percent of the exterior of the original building" ("Projects -- Fairwood Library").
A Great Day
After construction was completed, some patrons were invited a few days early to see the new library at a preview party, hosted by the KCLS Foundation and the Friends of the Fairwood Library. However, the big public opening was reserved for December 6, 2014, in a morning ribbon-cutting event right before the library was scheduled to open its doors to the public. KCLS interim director Julie Acteson had advised patrons to "come early because we are expecting a record crowd" ("Fairwood Preview Party Script"), and that turned out to be accurate.
More than 500 people gathered outside the library doors. The event began with music by the Fairwood Elementary School Honor Choir and continued with remarks by Acteson, who said that the Fairwood Library would now have a "broader, deeper" new collection to fill the "lovely, larger library" ("Fairwood Opening Program Script"). Architect Walter Schacht then discussed the building's design and materials, followed by remarks from KCLS board president Jessica Bonebright. King County Council member Reagan Dunn was the next speaker. He said:
"This is a great day for the greater Fairwood community. Nearly 80 percent of the population in Fairwood uses this facility: they check out videos and music, 'borrow' eBooks, and take advantage of the free WiFi to access the internet. The newly expanded library will increase these opportunities and better serve this community" ("Fairwood Library Reopens").
The Fairwood Library now had "more computers and new materials, a new, light-filled children's area, space dedicated for teen use, and a quiet reading area" ("Grand Reopening ..."). The new flexible meeting space had glass walls that could slide back, transforming it into additional study and reading space when not used for meetings. The culmination of the grand reopening event came when Acteson invited the children in the audience to come up and help cut the ceremonial ribbon -- the beginning of a new era for the Fairwood Library.