On Saturday, June 5, 2004, the Library Connection @ Southcenter, a storefront library at the Westfield Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, holds its official opening celebration. The innovative 3,168-square-foot library, part of the King County Library System (KCLS), occupies a retail store space in the state's largest shopping mall. The opening celebration on Saturday afternoon features refreshments, balloon animals for children, and Story Time readings by local police and firefighters. The mall library will prove highly popular, and it will be renovated and enlarged in 2012. Plans in 2017 call for nearly doubling the size of the Southcenter Library.
The specially designed mall library at Southcenter followed the successful launch in 2001 of the Library Connection @ Crossroads in a Bellevue mall. KCLS chose the even-larger Southcenter Mall as the ideal place to replicate that success, since surveys showed that south King County was ripe for additional library services.
The King County Library System Foundation, the fundraising arm of the library system, was so enthusiastic about the idea that it launched a campaign to fund construction of the Southcenter library entirely through donations. It reached its goal of $850,000 -- thanks to a $130,000 matching grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- and work began on the library in early 2004. The library opened to the public on May 8, 2004, and the formal celebration came a month later. A brochure advertising the opening said, "Thanks to the efforts of the KCLS Foundation, generous individual and corporate sponsors, the Library Connection @ Southcenter is here. Take a break, read a magazine, borrow a book, or catch up on the latest news ... right in the mall" ("Welcome to ...").
The official opening celebration for the Library Connection @ Southcenter was held on Saturday, June 5, 2004, from from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It featured cookies, refreshments, and balloon animals for kids. It also featured four Story Time sessions at half-hour intervals with stories read by "community heroes" -- members of the Tukwila police and fire departments (Opening Celebration poster).
Success and Expansion
The Library Connection @ Southcenter soon proved to be a popular success. The library was expanded and renovated in early 2012. Its total checkouts that year were 183,731, higher than many traditional, stand-alone libraries in the system. People flocked to it because of its convenience and because it was open during all mall hours, seven days a week.
The library's main drawback was its small size, and in 2016, KCLS made plans to take over an adjoining storefront space and nearly double the size of the Southcenter Library to about 5,000 square feet. Work was expected to get underway in early 2017.