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Bigger and better: Federal Way Regional Library reopens June 5
A crowd gathered beside soft yellow walls glowing with the touch of elongated sun rays Wednesday evening for a sneak peak of the newly renovated Federal Way Regional Library.
The library, located at 34200 1st Way S., has been closed for renovations since March 2009. It's scheduled to reopen to the public June 5. Wednesday's crowd included Friends of the Library and elected officials. With a stray ladder, some empty bookshelves, piles of cardboard boxes and the smell of new carpet lingering in the air, it was clear the renovations are not yet complete.
But still, attendees browsed the library attentively.
"We've been waiting for it (to open) and we're just delighted," Federal Way resident Mike Lane said.
A new look
Approximately 9,500 square feet were added to the existing library's 25,000 square feet. The new space is easily distinguishable by the sloping vaulted ceilings and massive number of windows and skylights looking out over a natural forest full of towering evergreens. The reading room even features tables crafted out of trees that were cut down to make room for the expansion.
The goal of the renovation was to add more space in a way that incorporates the library's forested outdoor surroundings, said Bill Ptacek, King County Library System director.
The public made it clear before construction began that the library's surroundings should play into its new design, managing librarian John Sheller said.
King County Library System and library patrons wanted "to somehow or another unlock that treasure," Ptacek said.
Throughout the whole library, vibrant colors, patterns, lots of lighting and loads of transparent building materials comprise the new look. Pale yellow walls welcome guests into the space. They boost visitors' energy levels and morale, Kent resident Mary Mueller said. A laser light show, frozen in action, appears to play across the new carpet. Patterned and colored chairs, sofas, tables and overhead lighting — some looking as though they catapulted straight out of the 1970s and others reminiscent of something found in an Ikea catalog — add to the atmosphere.
"I've been describing it as simply inviting," Sheller said. "We really worked to have this space invite people in to explore the whole building."
The space appeals beyond the senses. The facility offers more room for people and materials. A reading room, study rooms and a new children's area open up the floor plan. Another 19,000 materials — bringing the collection to 200,000 — also make the library more welcoming. Prior to the expansion, there were times when all the sitting areas were full and patrons had nowhere to linger and enjoy the library, Sheller said.
"From the day we opened in (1991), it's been a really heavily used library," Sheller said.
The facility's opening will also bring more computers, a streamlined materials handling process and extra programs. The updated automated handling system will get materials to the shelves faster, Sheller said. Interactive programs are expected to encourage patron participation at the library.
The expansion and renovation gave a much-needed facelift to the library, which was constructed in December 1991. The $8.1 million expansion plan — approved in 2004 — was part of a larger $172 million capital bond, approved by voters, to improve, renovate or expand 44 King County Library System libraries. Construction at the Federal Way Regional Library was originally planned for early 2010, but started a year ahead of schedule.
"I really appreciate the community's patience while it's been closed," Sheller said.
A public ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at the library at 10 a.m. June 5 to mark the facility's official reopening. The temporary Commons Mall branch, opened to accommodate patrons during the larger library's construction phase, will close May 30.