Auburn embraces bigger, greater public library

Auburn's librarians must have hit the off-switch on the shush-ometers last Saturday.

The 5

The 5

Auburn’s librarians must have hit the off-switch on the shush-ometers last Saturday.

After a year’s closure for extensive remodeling, the expanded Auburn Library reopened to a raucous — by library standards, thunderous — reception filled with people gushing about “all the room,” and “the huge kids area,” and “the central area.”

All without a single confirmed shushing.

Community leaders, library staff, Friends of the Auburn Library, builders and residents came to celebrate the landmark occasion inside a revamped library that opens up more room for children and teens, makes more materials and more laptop computers available for checkout and adds more wireless access.

And adds a heckuva lot of light.

“I think the really big idea here is to make it very accessible, to create another gathering area in the middle of a big room and then open it up to a view of the surrounding park,” said Walter Schacht, principal of the design team Aslani Architects.

The City of Auburn originally pressed for a 20,000-square-foot building in the early 1990s, but funding and other constraints only allowed the King County Library System to build to 15,000 square feet. The expansion adds that intended 5,000 square feet, most noticeably in that glass-paneled addition that expands into a portion of the parking space on the east side of the building.

King County residents supported a $172 million capital bond in September 2004 to pay for the Auburn Library project and other library expansions and renovations. KCLS closed the library for a year to complete the work and opened a temporary library.

Evelyn MacPhee, who once tutored at the library but is moving from the area, said she thought she’d come to the library one last time to pay her respects.

“I think it’s beautiful, wonderful,” said MacPhee, looking around. “The glass is great, the new artwork is exciting, even the chairs are better.”

Brendan McBreen and Gerald McBreen also liked what they were seeing.

“Very spacious,” said the younger McBreen, “and it encourages kids to play.”

“Huge, a lot more space, and a lot more books. See, I’m a book person, I like to hold books in my hand when I’m here,” added McBreen the elder.

“The most wonderful thing is that we opened the library up,” said Joan Mason, a member of Friends of the Library. “We really wanted a larger library when it was built it in 1999, and we were disappointed that we didn’t get it. Now it’s state of the art.”

Librarians refer to the central area as “the living room,” Schact said, and it was designed to work that way, as a place where people could hang out. The shelving on the east side is much lower than it used to be, so people can look out at the park. The children’s reading area is immediately adjacent to the outdoor play area in the park. There’s a lot more glass at the front door and a lounge area with vending machines, where people can nosh on something and people can wait for somebody to pick them up.

Daylight harvesting, a key advantage of the glass addition, Schact added, will help to keep the energy use down. This calls for glare-reducing, solar-gain-reducing sunscreens so that when the sun is out, there is no need to pull the shades and turn the lights on.

Other improvements:

• A new meeting room in the northeast corner of the addition that will serve as a quiet space when it is not a meeting room. The meeting room as it had been remained closed, locked and unavailable when it wasn’t in use. The new meeting room offers sliding glass doors, making it a much more interactive, multi-use space.

• The relocation of bathrooms to the west side of the building and an expanded entrance way and media area in the space formerly occupied by the restrooms.

• A quiet study area that significantly increases the amount of seating space.

• An automated material handling system that lets patrons check in their books and get a receipt for them

• Additional spaces for laptops and additional laptops for check out. The library has kept the same number of fixed computers.

• Expanded parking, structural and electrical improvements and a rain garden. Previously there were about 30 hard, desk-type seats and perhaps a third of all the seats were soft seats, not enough for all the people who use the library.


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