News

143 times, no: Don't put library downtown

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

Standing outside in the cold last Saturday made Margaret Nelson realize that plenty of people like her don’t want the South 320th Street Library to be relocated downtown.

Nelson, a frequent user of the library, doesn’t like the idea of King County Library System that’s been brewing since last fall. She said it’s contrary to what voters agreed to in a countywide levy for improving libraries.

To test the possible opposition to the library system’s proposal to replace the South 320th branch with a new one near the Federal Way Transit Center that Sound Transit opened this month, Nelson and others stood outside the 320th location and Federal Way Regional Library Feb. 18 with petitions urging officials to keep the 320th branch. After two hours, 143 signatures had been collected.

Nelson said she’ll give the petitions to the library system’s Board of Trustees as evidence that the public wants the South 320th branch to stay right where it is.

“Why mess up something that works now? The library is popular and busy,” she said.

Nelson also noted that the levy passed by voters in 2004 included, among other projects, a plan to tear down the 320th branch and rebuild it on the same site. Moving it isn’t what voters agreed to, she said.

The possibility of relocating to property next to the new transit center surfaced in 2005. Library officials talked to Sound Transit, which was working on plans to develop land located on the east and west sides of the center. From that came a public meeting last October in Federal Way, at which officials explained their idea and heard reactions from citizens.

A timeline for possibly relocating the branch hasn’t been given.

The South 320th branch opened in the late-1960s in a former bank building. The building and most of the books were destroyed in 1975 in an arson fire. Citizens renovated and repaired the library, and it reopened in 1976.

The new library building that would come from the voter-approved levy would span 15,000 square feet and be ready for use in 2011, according to the library system.

A library near the transit center would have convenient transportation for some library users and would help with an overall redevelopment of downtown, according to some officials. They’ve also said that people living east of Interstate 5 in Federal Way would have easier access to a library. The other library in town, the regional branch, is on First Way South in the southwest part of the city.

Nelson and other citizens who have spoken at meetings or written to The Mirror in opposition to relocating the 320th branch have said there could be problems for pedestrians at a library next to the busy transit center. Critics also claim the current location of the branch is well-supported by the community.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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