Architects offer vision for 20,000-square-foot Fairwood Library

Schacht Aslani Architects
Schacht Aslani Architects' conceptual design for the new Fairwood Library expansion that will add 5,000 square feet to the current space. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2013.
— image credit: Schacht Aslani Architects

King County Library System staff and Schacht Aslani Architects introduced community members to their vision for the expansion of Fairwood Library, at a forum Thursday night.

Attendees got to view the architectural team's concepts for what it hopes will be a more functional space that is adaptable over the long term. The plan is to expand the 15,000-square-foot library, built in the 1980s, to 20,000 square feet. Construction is anticipated to begin in early spring 2013.

Schacht Aslani Architects is in the schematic design phase of the process, putting the ideas they have collected and researched to actual renderings and plans.

A key aspect of their design features include an automated book drop operation in the space of the current large meeting room at the entrance of the library.

That meeting room would be incorporated elsewhere in the library and used as a multi-functional space.

The design also features sustainable aspects, additional windows, new landscaping, new roofing, a new entry plaza, expanded children's area, dedicated study rooms, increased window areas and an improved teen area.  A good-sized crowd filled half the meeting room for the presentation Thursday night. Reactions from those in attendance to the concepts presented were mostly positive, with some mixed reviews on the areas designated for certain functions like the teen area versus the computer area. A point raised by an audience member noted the noise level generated from the teen area would disrupt the computer area in one of the designs.Another person pointed out that locating the children's section to a far corner would create noise as children passed through the rest of the library to get there. Some joked repeatedly that the architects should locate the kids' sections outside and across the street, which drew laughs from the adult crowd.

Angelina Benedetti, KCLS staff, thought these comments were humorous but reflective of Fairwood Library's unique situation.

She used the library as a teenager and currently experiences it as the library cluster manager.

"It's true then and it's true now that one of the biggest uses of this library is by students," Benedetti said.

She described the weeknights in Fairwood Library as "a mob scene of kids."Fairwood is one of the busiest tutoring libraries for KCLS' Study Zone Program. The library is also one of the busiest in the system. "We need the space," said Benedetti. "You know it was funny when they were talking about, you know, put the kids outside. Well, they need a place to come and this is where they come."

Library user Kelly Luebstorf took issue with the amount of space dedicated to programming areas in the presented designs. He thought the architects did a "fairly decent" study of the current library, but there is room for changes.

He directed questions at Bill Ptacek, KCLS director, and later said, "I feel that we might be losing sight of what a library is for is to have circulation available to the public here."

Luebstorf was somewhat satisfied but put off by Ptacek's explanation that a lot of books are no longer in print and not as much space is needed for actual books.

Ptacek explained the growing trend of e-Books and the effects they have on the library's physical book collection.

"We're pretty confident that the array of space allocation that we have should work pretty well," Ptacek said.

Luebstorf was still uncomfortable with the explanation after the meeting.

"But, there are also people like me who - I use technology, but I like to sit down with a book every now and then," he said. "And just open up a book and explore reading. I think that's what libraries are for is to explore reading."

J.C. Letourneau, architectural team member, thought the forum definitely produced some good suggestions. He said he heard "things that we've thought about and somethings that KCLS has also thought about, but when you hear it spoken as a priority, then it gains traction. We incorporate those into our design."

Letourneau felt the current building's distinct design made it particularly challenging to approach with an expansion.

"So, trying to open that up and make it really an open space that's adaptable and flexible over time for the programming of the library, I think is probably the biggest challenge," he said.

The feedback that was given was exactly what Benedetti expected from the community.

"So as staff we knew that there were going to be representatives from the community because everybody is so connected to this library," she said. "They really care passionately about it. It's a fixture of this community and has been for the last 25 years. It's so busy because of that."


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