The new Beacon Hill library: Book lovers invited to Saturday grand opening

A good, neighborhood library is more than the sum of its parts.

If it does its job, the building should serve as a community crossroads and a place to feel comfortable while expanding one's world: the proverbial "third place" home away from home and work.

And that's what Beacon Hill residents can expect when the new Beacon Hill Branch Library, at 2821 Beacon Ave. S., opens its doors at noon Saturday, July 10.

The opening-day celebration will include speeches, music and entertainment and appearances by local authors, but residents are just as likely to find the 10,800 square foot building with its swept roof design, high windows and curved ceilings to be the main attraction.

David Kunselman, library capital projects manager and a trained architect, speaks of the "wow" factor.

"You want people to walk in the door and pause," Kunselman said of the $5,358,990 building. "Like a cathedral, every branch (library) has its own identity."

Natural light floods the library's interior. The juxtaposition of wood and stone materials provides an atmosphere of warmth and intelligent craft.

"It has a presence," Kunselman said of the building. ""It's what you sometimes get in church."

The new library will carry more than 40,000 books and materials, doubling what was available at the former site. A special collections section features languages other than English, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and Tagalog. There are 24 public computers, a special area for young adults, a meeting room, and an adult reference and reading area and a multicultural DVD and music section. The city's neighborhood service center occupies a room just off the front entry.

Outside stand four stones beveled with a season-related haiku, the result of a community-based competition. The winners were Stephanie Cerezo, Xiu Vinh Mao, Craig Thompson and Kathleen Craig. Also outside is an intriguing scupper designed by Miles Pepper which, when filled with rainwater, tips and empties its load on the ground - a sort of kinetic tai chi.

Kunselman is quick to point out that the project has been a team effort aided by community input along the way. Carlson Architects designed the building. Gordon McHenry Jr., a member of the Seattle Public Library board of trustees and board steward for the Beacon Hill branch, oversaw the project, which was made possible by the 1998 city-wide Libraries for All" bond measure approved by Seattle voters. A dozen potential sites had been discussed, and the old Wells Fargo Bank site was picked in Nov. 1999. Construction began in February 2003.

"We're proud of the daylighting," Kunselman said, looking around at the plentiful windows. "Even on cloudy days, it's light."[[In-content Ad]]