Sammamish Library, King County Library System

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 2/23/2017
  • Essay 20301
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Prior to construction of Sammamish's first library, the King County Library System (KCLS) opened a small station in a storefront in the Sammamish Highlands Shopping Center in 1994. This temporary location, which was primarily used to drop off and pick up books, lasted until 1998, when the Sammamish Library opened on the northwest corner of NE Inglewood Hill Road and 228th Avenue NE. The rapidly growing city quickly outgrew this library, and an attractive new state-of-the-art library opened at the Sammamish Commons in January 2010.

Sammamish Station

Sammamish's beginnings date to the late nineteenth century, when Martin Monohon (1820-1914) first settled east of the present-day intersection of SE 24th Way and E Lake Sammamish Parkway. Monohon maintained a ferry landing on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish near today's SE 32nd Street, and a town named after him developed nearby and flourished until it was destroyed in a 1925 fire. A few other small communities also developed along the east side of the lake and on the Sammamish Plateau itself, more on the southern end than on the northern. Modern development began edging onto the plateau in the 1960s, and this growth slowly accelerated in the 1970s. In the 1980s it began to surge.

By the late 1980s the community's population had passed 10,000, more homes and schools had been built, and the plateau even had a couple of shopping centers. But there was not yet a city of Sammamish; the entire plateau was unincorporated King County. Those living south of SE 8th usually associated more with Issaquah and tended to use the Issaquah Library, while those living north of SE 8th usually associated more with Redmond and tended to use the Redmond Library. This became frustrating for residents as growth continued, and by the late 1980s they were calling for a library on the plateau. In 1988 voters approved a $67 million bond measure to build or improve about 20 libraries in the King County Library System, which included construction of a new library on the Sammamish Plateau.

In 1992 KCLS bought land for a library on the northwest corner of NE Inglewood Hill Road and 228th Avenue NE. The library was originally scheduled to be completed by 1995, but various causes -- mainly that other county libraries were built or improved first -- pushed the project back several years. In the interim KCLS opened a library station in April 1994 in the Sammamish Highlands Shopping Center at 720 228th Avenue NE (roughly where Mod Pizza was located as of 2017). This "temporary" station was open for more than four years. It wasn't really a library and didn't claim to be one. Known as Sammamish Station, the little storefront room had two public computers and a small collection of books. The station was mostly used to drop off books or pick up holds by patrons who didn't want to go to Redmond or Issaquah.

The 1998 Library

In 1995 Sammamish Friends of the Library formed to help raise funds and provide community support. More delays followed -- for example, it took more than a year to get a building permit -- but by the end of 1997 a $3.5 million contract for a 10,000-square-foot building was in place. The building was designed by Johnston Architects and the Portico Group of Seattle, and the construction contract was awarded to Richard Hoffman of Kassel Construction. Even in 1997 there were some concerns that the library would prove to be too small to serve the plateau's rapidly burgeoning population (its population was around 30,000 at the end of 1997), and these concerns turned out to be prescient. But it would do for the time being, and ground was ceremonially broken on the 2.1-acre site on December 13, 1997. Construction began the following April and proceeded smoothly, and Sammamish's first library opened at 825 228th Avenue NE on December 15, 1998. A formal dedication and daylong celebration followed on January 23, 1999.

The building was an attractive structure with high windows and a partially vaulted roof that rose in a graceful curve from the roof's southern edge to its northern edge before abruptly ending. Architect Ray Johnston aptly described the building as a "modern half vault" ("Finally ..."). Some were a little disappointed with the building's rather utilitarian look and said that they had hoped for something a bit more striking. But most were just happy that the library was there. The total cost of completion, which included furnishing the library with materials and equipment, came to $5.3 million. The library offered 47,000 materials, mostly books. Ninety percent of its books were new, an unusually high amount for a new library, and a fact that was proudly pointed out by the new managing librarian to a Sammamish Review reporter. The library had an extensive magazine collection, 16 computers, a small study room, and a larger meeting room. A parking lot was located on the north side of the library.

Local residents had voted in November 1998, about six weeks before the library opened, to incorporate the City of Sammamish and the incorporation took effect on August 31, 1999. The next year, in order to remain part of the countywide library system (rather than having the city attempt to finance and operate a library of its own) residents of the new city voted, with a resounding "yes" vote of more than 87 percent, to annex the Sammamish Library to the King County Library System.

By the spring of 2007 the Sammamish Library offered nearly double the total number of items that it had at its opening just eight years earlier. In 2006 the library circulated more than 600,000 items, and KCLS noted in a 2007 study that it regularly circulated more items than other similarly sized KCLS libraries. Roughly one third of the city's population was under 18 years old during these years, and the library accordingly directed many of its services toward children and their parents. The 2007 study reported that the library had 11 children's story times, which were almost always filled to capacity, and it added that the Sammamish Library boasted the highest story-time attendance for the entire King County Library System in 2006. The library had a mother-daughter book club as well as a father-son book club, and it hosted a book club for teens. The library even offered free tutoring in its study zone to students between kindergarten and 12th grade.

As expected, Sammamish grew quickly. In 2000, its first census following incorporation, the city's population was 34,104. That would jump to 45,780 a decade later, straining the library's capacity. In particular, demand for the library's computers frequently exceeded availability. Patrons could usually find one early in the day, but later in the day they were often all taken, leading to long wait lines. Additionally, because there weren't many other places in Sammamish for public meetings, the library's meeting room was regularly booked. And technological changes that had only been dimly on the horizon when the library opened accelerated as the new millennium got underway. By 2007 the library was simply running out of room.

Sammamish residents were already calling for a new library, and in October 2007 the City of Sammamish approved a deal to sell a 3.9-acre parcel of land located in the Sammamish Commons, a civic and park complex, to KCLS. The library quickly hired an architect, and city council members and other city officials were on hand with faux-gold shovels on December 4, 2008, to ceremonially break ground at the new site at 825 228th Avenue SE. (The two sites, about a mile apart on 228th Avenue, had identical addresses except for the designation SE [Southeast] at the new site and NE [Northeast] at the old). Funding for the $16 million project, which included additional materials and equipment for the library, was provided by a $172 million library capital-improvement bond measure passed by King County voters in 2004. The contract was awarded to Sierra Construction Company of Woodinville, and construction proceeded apace through 2009.

The 2010 Library

Sammamish's first library building closed on December 13, 2009. (The City of Sammamish bought the building and converted it into a teen recreation center.) By this time the library held more than 93,000 items, mostly books and magazines. It also had a collection of CDs and DVDs that was small by 2009 standards, only offering 10 or 12 "not-so-full shelves" ("Welcome ..."), a problem the new library would fix. Librarians spent the Christmas and New Year's holidays preparing for the move to the new building, and everything was ready when the new library ceremonially opened on January 9, 2010. A jazz band performed, and a magician and a clown entertained the kids. It was all very Sammamish, and hundreds of happy residents and visitors spent that Saturday afternoon exploring and mingling.

At 19,500 square feet, the new library was nearly twice the size of the original. The library increased its total collection to more than 106,000 items and quadrupled the size of its CD and DVD collection. It doubled the number of items offered to children and preteens -- Bobbie Daniel, a cluster coordinator for KCLS, said that it was "probably one of the largest [collections] in the system" ("Welcome ...") -- and the children's and preteen section also contained eight of the library's 28 computers. The library had a spacious meeting room capable of seating more than 100 people, and two smaller study rooms. To the delight of library employees, it also had a new automated book-return machine that received books from the library's three book drops and carried them via conveyor belt to a stocking cart, eliminating the tedious job of employees having to lift and stack the books themselves.

The new building was considerably more dramatic than its predecessor, with a high ceiling, skylights, and large windows with views of the Sammamish Commons and, to the west, sweeping views (in clear weather) to downtown Seattle's skyscrapers and beyond to the Olympics. A six-foot-long gas fireplace inside the library added an inviting touch. Many of the library's countertops were made from reclaimed ash, maple, and native elm trees, while renewable bamboo was used for book-stack tops and end panels. The new library had several sustainable-design touches. These included a geothermal energy element, which helped heat and cool the building using the earth's energy; rain gardens; and permeable concrete paving, which let water seep into the ground rather than flow away. A small parking garage was built below the library and additional parking was provided outside. Still, parking wasn't much easier at the new building than at the old.

The library was designed by Perkins+Will Architects, a global architectural firm with an office in Seattle, and it received several design awards in its first few years. One award that the library was especially proud of came in the spring of 2011 when the magazine Library Journal named the Sammamish Library one of its six landmark libraries for the year, based on its "very fine structure… [and] incredible presence" ("LJ's ...").


"Engage: Sammamish Library 2007 Community Study," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed January 8, 2017 (; "About Sammamish Library," KCLS website accessed January 8, 2017 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Sammamish -- Thumbnail History" and "New Sammamish Public Library building opens on January 9, 2010" (by Phil Dougherty), (accessed January 14, 2017); "LJ's New Landmark Libraries," Library Journal, May 10, 2011 (; Linda Thielke, "Construction to Begin on First Library for Plateau," Eastside Journal (Bellevue), December 12, 1997, pp. A-1, A-6; Jake Lynch, "City Center Begins to Take Shape Around New Library," Sammamish Reporter, January 4, 2010, website accessed January 9, 2010 (; Grace Reamer, "Celebrating with Shovels," Sammamish Review, January 1998, pp. 2-3; "One for the Books," Ibid., January 1999, pp. 4-7; "New Library Starts Construction" (photo caption), Ibid., December 10, 2008, p. 15; Christopher Huber, "Welcome to the New Sammamish Library," Ibid., December 30, 2009, website accessed January 9, 2010; (; Christopher Huber, "Thousands Come to Opening Ceremony for New Library," Ibid., January 13, 2010, pp. 12, 13; Brier Dudley, "Finally, a Library of Its Own -- Sammamish Branch Opens Dec. 15," The Seattle Times, November 25, 1998; Sonia Krishnan, "Sammamish Library Will Be City Hall Neighbor," Ibid., October 6, 2007 (

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