Valley View Library, King County Library System

  • By Fred Poyner IV
  • Posted 4/12/2017
  • Essay 20318
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The Valley View Library in SeaTac traces its origins back to a group of bookmobile stops in the McMicken Heights and Valley Ridge communities of south King County. In 1954 local citizens petitioned the King County Library System (KCLS) for a local library, which opened late that year in a one-room building as the McMicken Library. A second library, the Valley Ridge Library, followed, opening its doors in 1960. The small size of the two libraries necessitated a series of relocations between 1960 and 1966, eventually leading to plans to merge them into a single library for the area. KCLS purchased a site for the new library in 1973, and funding became available in 1980 when voters approved a levy lid lift. The new citizen-named Valley View Library opened to the public on May 22, 1982. Since then the library has worked closely with local schools, agencies, and organizations to serve residents of the area, which incorporated as the City of SeaTac in 1989. The Valley View Library was renovated in 2002 and again in 2016.

Two Communities, Two Libraries

The McMicken Heights neighborhood in south King County is located just east of the major airport that first opened during World War II and was dedicated as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 1949. Beginning in early 1954, members of the McMicken Heights Improvement Club, led by club president Henry Fichtner (1922-2006), held a series of meetings with KCLS staff to garner support for a new library that would replace the KCLS bookmobile service then providing books to local citizens. KCLS supported the efforts and the Improvement Club took the lead in securing volunteer time, contributions of building materials, financial support (one event saw the club selling paper hats at a PTA carnival to raise funds), and even a 261-square-foot building donated by a local real-estate company.

By August 1954, Improvement Club members also had a plot of land at 3730 S 166th Street, where they envisioned placing the donated structure for the new library. KCLS was less enthusiastic about the location. Fichtner reported in the club's newsletter, "At this point the Library people have almost concluded that our district could be served as adequately by the Bookmobile as by placing the library on the Community Club property" (McMicken Heights Bulletin, August 28, 1954). The newsletter concluded with a call for members of the public to sign petitions endorsing the club's plans for a library.

With the support of the local community, the Improvement Club pressed ahead with relocating the building to the proposed location, with 14 men participating in the effort over a nine-hour period on a single Sunday. At that point KCLS agreed to a service contract under which it would provide librarians and books for the library on the club's chosen site. A library board was appointed to oversee the new library. The board was headed by Mrs. Charles Gilbert, who in December proudly declared the library ready, noting "the building is insulated, beautifully lighted, and all walls filled with fine bookcases full of books" (McMicken Heights Bulletin, December 14, 1954). The new McMicken Library held a dedication ceremony on Sunday, December 12, 1954.

Lois Olson (1932-2012) was the head librarian, serving until 1964. The demand for books from the McMicken Library was robust from the start. By one account, more than 300 were checked out in a single day in the month of February 1955. To help accommodate the demand, the library's hours were extended by two hours on Fridays, and three more assistant librarians were added to the staff. By September, the library offered both a story-time program and a summer reading program for children, and the collection numbered 4,000 volumes. One popular book in demand at the time was the bestseller Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989).

By 1959 the Improvement Club was leading efforts to expand the library, this time as part of a new McMicken Community Club building being built on S 166th Street. A single room in the building was set aside for the McMicken Library, this time 600 square feet in size, to hold a collection that had grown to 8,000 volumes. On June 3, 1960, the library held its moving day, with McMicken Library Board chairman George Vincent overseeing the transfer from the previous location. George Robinson, president of the Improvement Club, donated a new globe, a Hammond Nature Atlas, and a Hammond World Atlas to complement the library's collections. Fred Bennett, a local carpenter and club member, contributed new shelves, tables, and a book checkout desk.

The McMicken Library opened to the public in its new home on June 7, 1960, two days after the McMicken Community Club complex was dedicated on June 5. After four months in its new location, the library reported a total of 1,723 juvenile patrons, and 1,672 adult patrons.

Shortly after the McMicken Library was relocated and expanded, a second area library -- the Valley Ridge Library -- was opened on November 28, 1960, to provide additional service to the growing community. This effort was organized by the Valley Ridge Library Guild, which provided the library's first building, at 4424 S 188th Street (just south of Military Road), where Tyee High School in SeaTac was later located. After three years, the Valley Ridge Library was moved one block east to a site leased from the King County Parks Department. The library, now 950 square feet in size, reopened at the new site on March 18, 1963. Lacking a formal agreement with KCLS, the Valley Ridge Library relied heavily on support from local residents.

The McMicken Library moved again in 1966, changing rooms within the Community Club building, and adding another 4,000 books to its collection. The effort was aided by a $6,000 Washington State Library Commission grant awarded to KCLS to acquire new library furnishings. As it had for the past 12 years, the McMicken Heights Community Club provided the building and site maintenance, while KCLS provided the librarians and book collection. An open house was held on April 12, 1967, with Irene Carmichael presiding as librarian. Hours of operation were expanded to 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Consolidation and Construction

Plans to merge the McMicken and Valley Ridge libraries had been discussed as early as 1966. KCLS envisioned a single combined library in the area, which would later become the city of SeaTac. The vision was part of a plan to construct more than 20 new libraries across the county. By the mid-1970s, however, funds to assist in the effort (including a $425,000 federal block grant that KCLS applied for in 1978) had failed to materialize, and the proposal to merge the two libraries was put on hold.

During this time, the Valley Ridge and McMicken libraries continued to expand their public programming in new directions, even with space constraints and limited ability to further increase their collections. A series of children's storybook-character contests were held at the McMicken Library beginning in 1971, and were later sponsored by the McMicken Friends of the Library, which formed in 1973. The group met for the first time on April 23, 1973, with the purpose of organizing book reviews, author talks, and other cultural activities, and announced as its first public program a visit to the library by author, world traveler, and peace activist Alice Bryant (1899-1977), billed as a "South American explorer"(McMicken Library Scrapbook).

A breakthrough occurred after KCLS placed a proposition on the March 1980 election ballot to lift the "106 percent tax lid" applicable to KCLS as a municipal taxing district (Reiner). The measure was approved by voters and the resulting revenue funded not only a replacement for the Valley Ridge and McMicken libraries, but also new library buildings for Issaquah, Fairwood, and Vashon Island. The architectural firm of Lewis Nelson Associates was selected in June 1980 to design the new combined library for the SeaTac area.

When KCLS surveyed residents to choose a new name for the combined library, "Valley View" was the favorite with 83 votes. "SeaTac" was next with 72 votes, and other choices included "Tanglewood," "Mountview," "Ridgeview" and "Crest View." Both the McMicken Friends of the Library and the Valley Ridge Library Guild consulted with KCLS to help develop plans for the new Valley View Library. A heavily wooded one-acre site at 17850 Military Road S was selected in 1981, and Petersen Building Company of Tacoma began construction that July. The location provided space for a building that boasted solar panels on the roof and walls shored up by earthen banks, helping to conserve energy while maximizing sunlight exposure.

The 6,558-square-foot Valley View Library opened to the public on May 22, 1982. It featured wooden (rather than steel) bookshelves, and a public meeting room that could accommodate up to 50 people. A computerized book checkout system was installed several months after the opening. The McMicken Library had closed its doors on April 6, 1982, and its Friends group donated a painting of Mount Rainier by local artist Emily McCartney (1903-2006) as a welcoming gift for the new library. The Valley View Friends of the Library was formed to help raise money for public programs not paid for by KCLS, such as a summer food workshop titled "Can It, Freeze It, Dry It!" (Voelpel).

The new library was headed by Louise Puaa, formerly the children's librarian at the Kent Library. Besides expanded programming, the library offered a book collection more than twice the size of the two previous libraries combined. Hours of operation increased to 36 per week. In the first month after opening, the Valley View Library reported a 54 percent increase in circulation over the combined total of the two libraries for the same month a year earlier, with 9,371 total books circulated. The configuration of the book collections had also changed: Cookbooks and personal health books were sorted for display in the center of the library's reading room, and the library offered many paperback books.

Working with the SeaTac Community

In 1989 residents of McMicken Heights and nearby neighborhoods, including Angle Lake, Manhattan, Sunnydale, Riverton Heights, and Bow Lake, voted to incorporate as a city. The newly incorporated city took its name -- SeaTac -- from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, commonly known as Sea-Tac (written with a hyphen, unlike the city's name), which was included within the new city's 10-square-mile area.

Following SeaTac's incorporation, the Valley View Library maintained a formal relationship with the city through a Library Advisory Committee. Library staff also provided articles about library activities to local publications, participated in city events, and established and maintained connections to various other local groups, including the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, and the Worksource program. The Valley View Library partnered with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to provide library patrons with assistance in accessing DSHS programs, and the children's librarian worked closely with the two elementary schools in the Valley View Library's service area, Bow Lake and McMicken Heights.

In 2002 the Valley View Library underwent the first of two renovation projects. The work, under the direction of Managing Librarian Karen Hardiman, included the addition of self-checkout stations and a new foyer, carpet, and exterior signage.

In 2015, KCLS was awarded a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host Dinaw Mengestu (b. 1978), author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. More than 800 copies of his book were distributed to patrons at the Valley View, Foster, and White Center libraries. Community events coinciding with the project included participants from the United States, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, and Vietnam. Valley View Library patrons reflected the growing cultural and ethnic diversity of the Puget Sound region, and supported KCLS at the community level as both advocates and partners.

A second renovation for the Valley View Library was funded, along with many other new, expanded, and renovated libraries, by a $172 million bond measure approved by voters in 2004. The project, supervised by West Region Manager Angelina Benedetti and Valley View Operations Manager Marie Winders-Gaddis, was completed in December 2016. It included increasing the number of public computers to 27 and adding privacy wall screens; adding two new circulation/information desks; and repainting the interior walls with brighter and more vibrant colors. The renovation also placed the fiction books within the more centrally located shelves, and reserved the perimeter walls for non-fiction titles and sections for child and teenage audiences.

Patrons visiting the Valley View Library today can utilize a bicycle-repair station and, during elections, a voter drop box. Both are located near the front entrance of the building. The main reading room can host up to 88 people. A variety of programs for adults, teens, children, and families continue to be offered on site, including citizenship classes, Talk Time classes in English, family story times for all ages, and Brick Builders for ages 4 to 12, where children can practice building with Legos, blocks, and other hands-on materials.


McMicken Library Scrapbook, 1954-1982, Valley View Library, SeaTac, Washington; McMicken Heights Bulletin, August 28, 1954, McMicken Heights Bulletin, December 14, 1954, McMicken Heights Bulletin, January 4, 1955, McMicken Heights Bulletin, February 1, 1955, Valley View Library Open House program, May 22, 1982, and Dan Voelpel, "Valley's Newest Library Opens," Valley Daily News, May 22, 1982, news clipping, in McMicken Library Scrapbook, 1954-1982, Valley View Library; "About Valley View Library," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed February 12, 2017 (; "Valley View Library 2009 Community Study," KCLS website accessed March 12, 2017 (; "KCLS Stories 2015," KCLS Annual Report, KCLS website accessed February 19, 2017 (; "Delivering on a Promise to Voters: KCLS Capital Improvement Plan 11-Year Report, September 2015," KCLS website accessed May 23, 2016 (; "January -- Valley View Library," flyer produced by King County Library System, January 2017, copy in possession of Fred Poyner IV, Issaquah, Washington; Maria Arcorace, email to Fred Poyner IV, February 13, 2017, in possession of Fred Poyner IV; Cathy Reiner, "Good News for Bookworms: 3 Libraries Going Up," The Seattle Times, June 18, 1980, p. G-8; "Valley View Picked for Name of Library," The Seattle Times, March 11, 1981, p. D-3; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Bryant, Alice Franklin (1899-1977)" (by Ruth Williams) and "SeaTac -- Thumbnail History" (by Paul Dorpat and Walt Crowley), (accessed February 19, 2017).

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