Opinion

Q&A with Mr. Federal Way: New library and heavy backpacks

Got a question for Mr. Federal Way? Email mrfederalway@federalwaymirror.com. - Mirror file photo
Got a question for Mr. Federal Way? Email mrfederalway@federalwaymirror.com.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

Q: Hey Mr. Federal Way, what is that rusty building on South 320th Street where the old library used to sit?

A: Actually, that rusty-looking building is the new Federal Way 320th Library. At a cost of about $5 million, the new construction was funded through a measure approved by King County voters in 2004.

After more than a year of construction, the new Federal Way 320th Library will re-open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. The celebration will include refreshments, traditional Latin American music by Los Flacos, and a magic show in the afternoon by Jeff Evans.

Yipee!

Mr. Federal Way is kind of flummoxed by the rusty outer shell of the new library. The building looks more like something that would be featured in the movie “Max Mad Beyond Thunderdome,” rather than a quiet place for people to read books.

It would seem to Mr. Federal Way that the designers of a library would want to make the building as inviting as possible, including neutral colors that help the facility blend in with the landscape.

The new 320th library, which officially opens Saturday, hits your eye like a ton of bricks. Mr. Federal Way actually thought construction workers had made a mistake when the black panels started rusting. But, alas, the rusty look was actually what the designers were going for when they drew up the plans.

Building design aside, the whole concept of a public library seems to be headed the way of the dodo bird. And that’s a shame, because Mr. Federal Way has had some great times in a library. Mr. Federal Way still remembers riding a bike to the library during the summer to check out books and participate in the reading program. Good stuff.

But those times are over. Tablet readers, like Kindles, have made it so you don’t even have to leave your house to check out or buy a book. You just have to click a button. It’s similar to the old arcades, where Mr. Federal Way used to play Galaga, DigDug and Asteroids. Now, kids can play better video games on their parents’ HDTV.

Libraries like the new one on 320th Street provide things like e-books, art, music, classes and podcasts, and function as a center for people looking for employment, among other things. Libraries have long been destinations for homebound, disabled and other underprivileged people, as well as spaces for community meetings.

But a vast majority of voting-age citizens really have no idea about the benefits offered at a library because they, like Mr. Federal Way, haven’t visited one since they were in school and were using the Dewey Decimal System to find a book about the solar system or where the first Super Bowl was played.

Mr. Federal Way would make a guess that things would turn out differently if that same $172 million capital bond measure were put in front of King County voters nowadays, as compared to 2004. Nine years ago, there was still a glimmer of hope that the Dewey Decimal System and an actual library building would be a viable option for the general public.

Mr. Federal Way can only speak for Mr. Federal Way, but Mr. Federal Way is pretty sure Mr. Federal Way would vote against it. And that doesn’t make Mr. Federal Way feel very good.

Q: My daughter goes to middle school and kids at her school aren’t issued lockers. This means that she has to carry around a backpack that weighs 50 pounds all day every day. What’s your take?

A: Mr. Federal Way thinks it’s unfair. It would be like carrying around another sixth-grader on your back all day. Lugging around a 50-pound backpack can’t be good for a growing kid’s spine and neck, can it?

There is a huge difference from elementary school to middle school. In elementary school, kids can store all of their books and other gear in their classroom.

In middle school, kids have six different classes in six different locations, and if they don’t have a locker, they have to haul those textbooks around all day in a backpack. This doesn’t even take into consideration band instruments or athletic gear.

It’s ridiculous that there are middle school students in the Federal Way Public Schools who don’t have lockers. It’s not healthy.

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