The Greenbridge Library was unique from the beginning. It is located in a King County Housing Authority redevelopment project and, rather than have its own building, it occupies space leased from the YWCA in that organization's learning center. The library opened on November 5, 2008. It was the fifth of 15 libraries built with funding from a $172 million bond issue approved by county voters in 2004. One of the smallest libraries in the King County Library System (KCLS), the Greenbridge Library serves a diverse and growing community of low-to-middle income residents, many of them immigrants, with programs and materials tailored to meet their needs.
Partnering for a Library
Greenbridge's roots are in Lake Park Homes, a public-housing development built in 1942 to house defense workers. Lake Park, in White Center in southwest King County, became the King County Housing Authority's oldest and largest development. After more than five decades of occupancy, the World War II-era homes were rundown. The Housing Authority began design work for redevelopment of the project in 2002. Financing included federal Hope VI grants. The new 95-acre project was called Greenbridge, a mixed-income community of rental units and homes that was intended to help revitalize White Center, an unincorporated neighborhood located between West Seattle and Burien.
Housing Authority planners wanted Greenbridge to have an array of community services, including a library. The King County Library System was amenable, but knew the area was being considered for possible annexation by the city of Seattle. Rather than commit to a building of its own, KCLS formed a partnership with the YWCA, which was planning a learning center at Greenbridge. The two organizations began discussing construction of a shared building in 2005, about the same time as the start of demolition of the old Lake Park buildings and groundbreaking for the Greenbridge redevelopment.
Planned initially were 300 public-housing units, some set aside for low-income seniors, and up to 229 subsidized apartments for the working poor, with market-rate apartments and homes expected to eventually bring the total number of units to nearly 1,000. Residential buildings would include townhouses, apartment buildings, and single-family homes, in addition to the buildings where the various community services were located. Along with the buildings would be an array of parks and open spaces. The first building, which opened in 2005, was the new White Center Heights Elementary School.
The King County Housing Authority staged a grand opening of Greenbridge's first residential phase in July 2006. It was a collection of 82 colorful, energy-efficient town homes and apartments called Seola Crossing. Tenants began moving in that August.
Construction of the Greenbridge Library began in 2007. It occupied the north portion of the 10,000-square-foot YWCA Learning Center building. Designed by SMR Architects and built by Walsh Construction, the library was a "Built Green" project that incorporated recycled fixtures and materials.
The library and learning center were part of a planned community-service campus that included a renovated 23,000-square-foot community center with recreational activities and adult classes, and a 32,000-square-foot Early Learning Center developed by the Puget Sound Educational Services District. The YWCA Learning Center would offer services such as job-search assistance, youth leadership programs, 4-H activities, and basic computer classes.
Serving the Greenbridge Community
The Greenbridge Library officially opened at 9720 Eighth Avenue SW on November 5, 2008, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by King County Executive Ron Sims (b. 1948) and community leaders. At 2,300 square feet, it was one of the smallest in the county system, but seemed spacious because of its tall ceiling and an open interior flooded with natural light. The floor plan was divided into areas for children, teens, and world-language books and DVDs, many in Vietnamese or Spanish. Computers lined the street-side wall, and a painting by Seattle artist Fay Jones (b. 1936) was installed behind the checkout desk.
By design, Greenbridge is considered a connection library, meaning it does not have the professional library staff and reference materials found at larger, full-service libraries. Its relatively small collection of about 34,000 items is classified as a browsing collection; those items cannot be reserved. However, in addition to browsing the library's shelves, local patrons are able to request that materials from other KCLS libraries be sent to Greenbridge for pickup.
The Greenbridge Library specializes in services for children, while offering programs and activities for all ages, including free tutoring for students, story readings in various languages, family movies, and games such as Pokemon Mania for teens. Additional programs are available at the nearby White Center Library.
The Greenbridge Library draws people from throughout White Center, especially the neighborhood's north end, while growth continues to bring new residents to the library's service area. As of February 2017, work was continuing on the Greenbridge housing redevelopment, with 845 residential units and a population of about 2,200 expected when complete. Seola Gardens, a sister Housing Authority project four blocks to the south, was nearly complete; it had 177 rental units and 108 for-sale homes with a total expected population of about 750. Also in the area are Providence Joseph House for low-income seniors and increasing numbers of market-rate residences built by private developers.
The demographics of the Greenbridge and Seola Gardens developments illustrate the demand for materials in many languages at the Greenbridge Library. Of the 479 heads of households tabulated in a January 2017 survey, 29 percent were from Vietnam, 27 percent from the United States, 22 percent from Somalia, and 9 percent from Cambodia, followed by smaller groups from eight other countries. As with all KCLS libraries, staff worked to tailor both the collection materials and the programs offered at the Greenbridge Library to the specific needs and interests of the diverse population.