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Covington Library opens on April 1, 1993.

HistoryLink.org Essay 10361 : Printer-Friendly Format

The Covington branch of the King County Library System, located at 27100 164th Avenue SE in the city of Covington, opened on April 1, 1993. One of the busiest branches in the system, it was expanded in 2008 by more than half.

Funded by Bonds

In 1988, King County voters approved a $67 million bond issue to fund the creation of 13 new libraries around the county, and expansions for five others. South King County, which had experienced tremendous growth since the last library construction bond was approved in 1966, would receive 5 new libraries -- two east of Kent, two in Federal Way, and one in Algona-Pacific.

Covington, then an unincorporated community east of Kent, had been experiencing rapid growth and was sorely in need of its own branch. Local residents had to travel a considerable distance to use the services of the Kent Library or visit smaller branches in Maple Valley and Black Diamond. After careful consideration, the King County Library System (KCLS) chose a site near the intersection of Highway 18 and Kent-Kangley Road.

Because Covington had been growing so fast, a moratorium was in place on new development, which initially hindered progress on the new branch. By the time KCLS had obtained all the necessary permits, other new branches funded by the 1988 bond were already under construction. Groundbreaking for the Covington Library did not occur until May 1, 1992.

Building, then Filling

The $3.1 million building was designed by Eskilsson Architecture of Seattle in association with Gregov Architects. An additional $1.9 million from the 1988 bond went toward the new collection of more than 65,000 books, magazines, newspapers, video and audio cassettes, compact discs, and more that was needed to fill its shelves.

Construction took less than a year, and prior to the opening the library staff was busy in the building. Thousands of boxes of books had to be opened and unloaded, and all the books had to be placed on the shelves. That left plenty of empty boxes, all of which had to be hauled away for recycling. With lots of work to be done before opening day, the staff got to know each other very well long before they welcomed the public.

Opening Day

On April 1, 1993, there was a mad scramble behind the scenes as a computer technician worked frantically to get the library's computers up and running before the doors opened. He was successful, but only minutes before the ribbon was cut and the crowds streamed in.

It was sunny outside as eager readers enjoyed the opening ceremonies, with music provided by the Kent Brass Ensemble. Once inside the building, children of all ages were entertained by a magician who performed tricks while wandering through the aisles.

Many patrons got new library cards and signed out books. Others marveled at the library's computer capabilities. Using terminals set up for the public, patrons could search for books online, look up information about businesses, and even access nationwide phone listings. Not long after the library opened, classes were offered on how to use the internet -- a technology that was new for many people.

In September 1993, the Friends of Covington Library held an inaugural meeting to discuss ways to promote use of the library and to plan activities and programs for its patrons. Meanwhile Covington continued to grow, and was incorporated in 1997. In 2008, the 15,000-square-foot library was expanded by more the 8,000 square feet to accommodate the needs of new generations of Covington readers.

"South End Users Would Benefit From Bond," The Seattle Times, September 14, 1988, p. B-3; "South End Towns to Enjoy More Reading Room," The Seattle Times, September 21, 1988, p. H-4; "Covington to Get Overdue Library -- Limits on Growth, Permit Process Caused Delays to the Project" The Seattle Times, May 4, 1992, p. B-3; "Places of Volume and Volumes," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 15, 1993, p. C-1; Clippings and brochures, Scrapbook, Covington Library; additional information provided by Mary Pritchard, President, Friends of Covington Library.

Travel through time (chronological order):
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Covington Library, March 2013
HistoryLink.org photo by Alan Stein

Interior, Covington Library, King County Library System, Covington, ca. 2007
Courtesy King County System

Covington Library, great room, March 2013
HistoryLink.org photo by Alan Stein

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