On January 17, 2004, the Rainier Beach Branch, The Seattle Public Library, reopens after a $3 million remodel. The new building is more than half again as large as the 1981 building, and it includes more seating, three meeting rooms added to the original one, a children's room, and up-to-date technology to connect patrons to the library collection and to the Internet. This is the fifth branch to be remodeled in the 1998 "Libraries for All" program.
Originally, the Rainier Beach Branch was to be the last of Seattle's 25 branches to be built or remodeled. But delays in other projects and schedule changes moved this project to the head of the list. The original building opened at 9125 Rainier Avenue in 1981 and was the fourth location for the neighborhood library.
Streeter & Associates Architects designed the expansion. Artwork in the building came from local artists Anna Skibska and Ariela Boronat. The remodeling job took 14 months. The larger building has room for 67,700 books.
The library is important to immigrants who can practice their English and can check out books in their native languages. Students find the collection valuable since school libraries in the South End of Seattle are not as well stocked as at schools in more affluent parts of the city. Rainier Beach is one of the few branches in the city that offers tutoring and homework help, since many parents either speak little or no English or work late.
Mayor Greg Nickels was first to borrow a book from the new branch. He checked out America Behind the Color Line by Henry Louis Gates Jr.