Woodmont Library, King County Library System

  • By Glenn Drosendahl
  • Posted 5/10/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20347

The Woodmont Library in Des Moines was built in 2000 to meet a need that had existed in southwest King County since the former Redondo Library closed in 1976, the need getting more acute as the area developed and its population grew. The Woodmont Library was busy from the start. Its connections to the community increased following implementation of recommendations made by a 2002 study. After a 2004 library bond issue made funds available, the library was nearly doubled in size. The expanded Woodmont Library opened in 2008.

Redondo Library

Woodmont, a neighborhood in the city of Des Moines in southwest King County, is located northeast of Redondo Beach, which sits on the Puget Sound waterfront just north of Federal Way. In 1944 a library was established in Redondo by the Dorcas Women's Club, later called the Seaweeders. It was in the office of the Redondo Water District. Two years later the Redondo Library joined the King County Library System (KCLS), which county voters had established (as the King County Rural Library District) in 1942. Redondo was a relatively small library. Records for 1964 show that its 650 square feet included staff office space, and it was open only nine hours a week.

A plan produced in July 1965 by the King County Planning Department and KCLS called for expanding the Federal Way Library and for a new library "to replace Redondo[,] near to shopping and Pacific Highway South for best service to [the] entire area" ("Library Location Plan"). The Redondo Library closed in 1976, but the Woodmont Library envisioned as its replacement was still a long way off.

Filling a Void

In 1988, county voters approved a bond issue for $67 million in capital improvements for the King County Library System. The bond funds allowed delayed plans to move ahead. A needs assessment for Federal Way-area libraries published in 1996 reported that KCLS had purchased land at the corner of S 268th Street and Pacific Highway S and that a library -- Woodmont -- would be built there to serve the south Des Moines and north Federal Way neighborhoods. That same year the Woodmont and Redondo neighborhoods voted to annex to the city of Des Moines.

Groundbreaking for the Woodmont Library was celebrated on June 14, 1999. Designed by Bassetti Architects and built by D. C. Engelmann Construction, the library building featured a glass and wood-framed tower bringing natural light into the public reading room. The side of the building facing the highway was clad with bricks to mute traffic noise. The side and entrance facing the adjacent neighborhoods were covered with wood siding.

The Woodmont Library opened on March 13, 2000, less than a year after the groundbreaking. It was the 41st library in the King County Library System, and Laurel Steiner was its managing librarian. The library encompassed 5,250 square feet and boasted a collection of 25,000 books plus other materials. In its first week, more than 5,000 items were checked out and 165 new library cards were issued. Official opening ceremonies were held on March 25, 2000.

Meeting Needs

A community study done by KCLS in 2002 cited census data indicating the Woodmont area had a lower median household income and a higher percentage of minorities than King County in general. The report stated that "residents rely on the Woodmont Library to get assistance in housing and job searches, immigration and citizenship information, GED support materials, starting a small business, consumer information, or career information" ("Community Study ...", 10). Showing particular need for assistance was Mark Twain Elementary, a school southeast of the library. Its students had much lower average scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills than the rest of the district, and more than 74 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.

The study recommended ways for the library to address the area's needs and better connect with the community, and many were implemented over the ensuing years. They included hosting multilingual computer classes and programs by social service agencies; pursuing partnerships to provide job-readiness training, small-business-startup help, and English-as-a-Second-Language classes; providing community and social-services information in foreign languages; selecting Spanish-focused programming for children, adults, and families; creating book clubs for teens and seniors; and promoting early learning to parents and childcare providers.

For Mark Twain Elementary, the study recommended putting library information in the school's home-visit packets, hosting a Mark Twain Elementary School family night, and offering an accelerated reading program to go with the school's reading incentive program. The study also recommended that the Friends of the Woodmont Library provide school supplies, board games, homework help, and mentoring.

Getting Bigger

In 2004, county voters approved a $172 million capital bond, paving the way for more KCLS improvements. When the Woodmont Library was built, it was designed to be expanded in the future. Those plans were exceeded by quite a bit. Instead of going from 5,250 square feet to 7,000, as originally intended, the library was nearly doubled in size, to 9,850 square feet. The $3.9 million project was completed in July 2008.

Designed by Miller Hayashi Architects and built by Lease Crutcher Lewis Construction, the expansion involved installing a steel frame to support the roof where a brick wall had been removed. The new roof extended beyond the edges of the original building, creating a sheltering overhang at the new entrance. The addition featured large windows to take advantage of natural light, children's and teen areas, and a new community room. Where a corner of the original building opened into the addition, a so-called Cyber Bar made of big-leaf-maple wood was created as a space for laptop computer users. Outside the building, Virginia creeper vines were planted to eventually form a green wall covering concrete near the entrance. The overall project received a 2012 Civic Design Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects Washington Council.

Six months after the library reopened, circulation had increased by 27 percent and patron visits by 14 percent when compared to the same six-month period prior to the expansion and renovation project. As of February 2017, the Woodmont Library had a collection of 47,140 items, and that month more than 13,000 were checked out. As an indication of how the area and its library service had grown, that single month's circulation was more than double the Redondo Library's circulation for all of 1964.


"Community Study, Woodmont Library," March 2002, historical documents vertical file, Woodmont Library, Des Moines, Washington; Mrs. J. E. Rogers, "Redondo Branch, King County Public Library," March 12, 1991, historical documents vertical file, Woodmont Library; "Library Location Plan," July 1965, historical documents vertical file, Woodmont Library; "Federal Way Libraries Service Needs Assessment," November 1996, historical documents vertical file, Woodmont Library; "Woodmont Library Open House and Dedication Ceremony," program, March 25, 2000, historical documents vertical file, Woodmont Library; Kurt Herzog, "Woodmont Area May Be an Island in Incorporated Sea," Federal Way News, February 10, 1988, p. B-6; Ron Post, "Woodmont Library Evolves Quickly into Valuable Community Resource," Federal Way News, January 17, 2001, p. 8; "New Library Opens," Des Moines City Currents, April 2000, p. 1; "Delivering on a Promise to Voters: KCLS Capital Improvement Plan 12 Year Report, September 2016," King County Library System (KCLS) website accessed March 8, 2017 (w3.kcls.org/capital_bond/12%20Year%20Capital%20Bond%20Report.pdf).

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