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What our library means to us: West Seattle

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of several Seattle libraries built, expanded, or renovated thanks to the Libraries For All campaign with the support of so many Foundation donors – including West Seattle.

The West Seattle Branch reopened on April 3, 2004, after a Libraries For All renovation updated the historic building. The branch originally opened in 1910 as one of Seattle’s first public libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. To celebrate 20 years in the updated branch and Seattle’s ongoing support for libraries for all, we visited West Seattle to talk to patrons and staff about what this library means to the community.

Story Time is always a hit at the West Seattle Branch. Librarian Leslie Sumida (pictured above right) said a recent visit from Buoy, the mascot of the Seattle Kraken NHL team, was a special highlight. She leads weekly Preschool Story Time programs that draw big crowds of local families – regardless of the celebrity guest.

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Kraken

Sumida helped create a scavenger hunt for children to learn more about the unique history of the branch. For example, the library’s prominent skylight windows were painted black due to air raid drills in World War II, and weren’t exposed again for decades.

It’s important for patrons to understand how this library has continuously served the community through many challenges for more than a century, Sumida said. She often meets visitors who grew up in the neighborhood and want to reconnect with their childhood library. “It’s been serving West Seattle families for generation after generation,” Sumida said of her branch. “It’s a touchstone for people.”

The branch is certainly a touchstone for Chris. He grew up in West Seattle and still lives a few blocks from the branch. He comes in to pick up DVD holds as he works through an extensive movie watchlist, and to read the magazine “Bicycling Quarterly,” since the library has a subscription. He described the branch as a comforting environment that ties him back to his neighborhood. “It’s just a nice place to sit and relax,” Chris said.

Abigail lives nearby but was visiting the branch for the first time with her two-year-old daughter. She was impressed by the library’s classic but welcoming design. “I like all the different nooks and crannies,” she said. “There are a lot of spaces that feel private.” She primarily uses public libraries to support her daughter’s interest in books or anything that engages her brain, including access to a printer for many, many coloring book pages.

Rose comes to the branch at least once a week. On this rainy afternoon, she was looking for a quiet place to do paperwork. She said the library created the perfect combination of calm and active, private and public.

“It provides a sense of community. It’s small, but it has everything,” she said of her local branch. “And it’s so cozy!”

Read more about the history of the West Seattle Branch.

Photos 2-5 by Anthony Martinez