Library will close during expansion

By ANDY HOBBS, The Mirror

The Federal Way Regional Library will close for about a year during a proposed 10,000-square-foot expansion.

When construction ends, the library will measure 35,000 square feet and rank among the largest in the King County Library System.

Representatives from Mithun Architects and KCLS explained the preliminary changes and sought feedback during a public meeting Oct. 29.

Two similar designs were presented for an expansion that will reduce congestion in the library at 34200 1st Way S., but will not increase its collection. One design featured a curved wall on the north and east sides, while the other design maintained the rectangular look.

KCLS hopes to start construction this summer once it secures a contractor and finalizes building permits, said director Bill Ptacek.

The budget for the construction is slated at $8.8 million following passage of the 2004 library bond.

Monday’s public meeting attracted about 50 people. Federal Way School Board member Dave Larson and Superintendent Tom Murphy both asked that the library remain open during construction. They noted the large number of students who rely on the library for their studies.

“We have hundreds of students who use this facility all the time,” said Murphy, who recommended staging construction so that the library could stay open. “It would create a hardship for students if it closed.”

Larson suggested a “storefront” model so that the library can still serve Federal Way students during construction. He also recommended forming a public committee to address the planned closure.

However, keeping the facility open during construction could push costs up by 25 percent or higher while also creating unsafe conditions for the staff and the public, Ptacek said.

“It is an issue of safety and it’s also a matter of economics,” Ptacek said, recalling a cautionary tale from leaving the Covington library open during renovations.

“Ultimately, it just doesn’t work,” he added. “The public will be best served if we can get it well designed and completed as soon as possible.”

To accommodate library patrons, the Federal Way 320th Library and Woodmont Library will stay open longer, Ptacek said. Woodmont, which is currently under construction, is scheduled to re-open in May.

Employees at Federal Way Regional will be able to find work at other KCLS branches during construction. In addition, Ptacek said the employees can collaborate with Federal Way schools and daycare centers on literacy activities and more.

“There are all sorts of ideas that are starting to percolate,” he said regarding the library’s community involvement that would compensate for reduced services during construction.

As for the two designs presented by Mithun Architects, KCLS will continue to seek public comment as well as study the overall cost and efficiency of each proposal before reaching a conclusion, Ptacek said.

At the Oct. 29 meeting, residents in attendance also expressed concerns over the parking lot, entryway improvements and available shelving for books.

Among other issues addressed at the meeting, the library will not add a security system, which proves too costly when compared to the low risk of major theft, one library official said.

A few people inquired whether the library could add a second story as part of its expansion, a move both the architect company representative and library officials said would be too costly both in construction and in staffing the second floor.

Contact Andy Hobbs: or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

To learn more on the Federal Way Regional Library expansion, visit

E-mail KCLS director Bill Ptacek ( or the KCLS Board of Trustees ( to share your opinions.

The next public meeting on the 2008 KCLS budget will be 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Fairwood Library, 17009 140th Ave. SE, Renton. To learn more, call (425) 226-0522.

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