For this venture, we took a slight detour from my plan to visit the farthest libraries first with a trip to the “tiny” community of Tukwila. With a population of 18,080 over 8.6 square miles, it boasts three library branches and is the geographical center of the KCLS service area. However, the smallest library, Tukwila, will be closing at the end of this month and was the impetus for my trip there sooner rather than later.
The Tukwila Library is housed in a former schoolhouse and City Hall that is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a beautiful property located in a residential neighborhood, very different than the libraries I’ve visited before that were located primarily in business or shopping areas. Neighbored by Hazelnut Park, the building sits on a bluff and across the street from a trail system that connects to the Duwamish Green River Trail.
Inside, what a quaint little library! The children’s section took about half of the square footage and as at other libraries, the computers were a popular draw. One of the most unique features of this library is its vault. Original to the City Hall, it now houses office supplies (and in case of accidental closure, the combination is stamped on the handle!) Not to fear that the building will go unused once the library moves out, Patty and Carol, the librarian staff with whom we chatted, tell us that the local historical society and several city departments are vying for the space.
The original plan was to head to Southcenter after Tukwila, until Patty reminded us that the Foster branch was only a mile down the road. Um, there’s a third branch in Tukwila, I enquired? At the beginning of this post, I cleverly sounded like I knew what I was doing. But, when planning this outing, I did not notice that Foster had a Tukwila address. My spreadsheet designed failed me on this trip! You can bet that I’ve now broken out the address field so that I can sort on the city name. And so, it was off to Foster we went.
The Foster Library is located right across the street from Foster High School – home to students that speak 65 different languages. There’s amazing diversity across Tukwila, to say the least. My first impression when we pulled into the parking lot was that it was quite empty for a Saturday afternoon, and I made the erroneous, and terribly stereotypical, assumption that the library would be empty (me! who avidly rode the bus to work for 8 years!). Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The library was as busy as I expected once we walked in. We chatted briefly with Larisa, a library assistant that has been with KCLS for 15 years. She enlightened us on the beautiful stained glass adorning one of the windows. As we finished talking with Larisa, it was late afternoon and we were long overdue for lunch. . .
I’d like to promise that all of my excursions into the community side of these trips won’t revolve around food, but besides reading, eating is right there with my most favorite things to do. We headed along International Boulevard to see what we could spot and we stumbled upon Salaama – advertising East African food that was 100% halal. I’ve never had East African, so we headed in! The menu was simple, the service was friendly, I loved my spicy pasta, and I learned a little more about the Somali community in King County during the lunch. Lorin was much more adventurous than I in his sampling of the goat dish. (See this Seattle Times article for more about dining experiences at Salaama.)
Bellies full, we were off to the Library Connection at Southcenter. I must say, the brightly lit library “storefront” fit right in with the mall! And, it brought me back to my high school years in Vancouver, WA. The Vancouver Mall branch of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District was my home branch during those years so I’m quite comfortable seeing a library in the mall. And again, the branch was hopping with patrons at computers and reading in all available seating. Carol, an assistant librarian who has been at the branch since its opening in 2004, was kind enough to talk to Lorin and I about the uniqueness of a library in a mall - it carries mostly new books, doesn’t allow for holds (yet?), and keeps mall hours – staying open as late as 10 p.m. during the holidays!
As we headed out of Southcenter, I reflected on how such a compact space can hold so much diversity. The closing of the Tukwila branch will only temporarily reduce Tukwila’s library count to 2 branches. . .a 3rd branch is planned for Tukwila Village as that development takes shape.