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Monica Foster of The Skanner
Published: 11 October 2006

After 16 months of construction, the newly expanded Douglass-Truth Branch Library will reopen to the public at noon Saturday, Oct. 14.
The 16,493-square-foot branch, at 2300 E. Yesler Way, has more than doubled in size, up from 8,008 square feet. It has a new meeting room, a spacious area for children upstairs (one of the largest in the area), 35 computers for the public downstairs (up from 15), a study room, an expansive lower level for the bulk of the library's collection, a display case, seating underneath the stairwell, two separate bathrooms with multiple stalls (up from one), air conditioning and an upgraded ventilation system.
Most of the addition is situated below street level — about 7,200 square feet — to preserve the original building, a city landmark, and to ensure that it dominates the site.
The brick and terracotta exterior wall of the historic building is still visible from the stair landing and the hall to the meeting room, and an expanse of windows and skylights allow light to stream into the lower level. Designers elected to use a copper exterior, because the old-world material resonates with the copper gutters of the original building.
Schacht Aslani Architects designed the building and Construction Enterprises & Contractors Inc. built it.
"We actually thought of the two buildings as being members of the same family even though they're from different eras," said Frank Coulter, the library's project manager. "We know it was important to maintain the historic structure of the building keeping it as a landmark and focal point for the community."
Inside the branch, copper wire sculptures of cherubs and sea grass, created by Auburn mixed-media artist Marita Dingus, hang on the wall, along with three-dimensional relief panels depicting interpretations of Aztec, Mayan and Western African influences created by local resident Vivian Linder.
Returning to the branch are paintings of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth by artist Eddie Ray Walker, which hung in the original building. Also intact is the Soul Pole, a totem pole given to the library in 1972 by what was then called the Rotary Boys Club.
The branch has the capacity to hold 66,700 books and materials; currently it holds approximately 61,000 items. Approximately 9,000 new books, DVDs and music CDs were added to the collection, including more than 1,000 items to the African American collection. The collection of African American literature and history now contains nearly 9,200 items.
"We were very fortunate to have donors come to our aid in helping us establish an endowment for the African American collection," said branch manager Valerie Garrett-Turner. "The goal was $100,000 and that was met and surpassed; that will take us through the next 20 years to keep the African American collection fresh and new."
Spaces named for project donors include: The Gayton Family Meeting Room; the Rae and Harry Kersch/Schultz Family Foundation Children's Area; the Louise Jones McKinney Reading Area; and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Delta Upsilon Omega Chapter Exhibit Area.
The Douglass-Truth branch is the 21st project completed under the 1998 "Libraries for All" voter-approved building program. The library doesn't have wireless Internet service but expects to have it next summer.
The library was first opened in 1914 and was called the Henry L. Yesler Memorial Library, the first Seattle branch library not financed by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The city paid to build the branch and named it after Yesler in recognition of his early efforts to start a library in Seattle.
By the 1960s, circulation at the branch dropped, and it was threatened with closure. In 1965 the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., a national sorority of Black college women, donated books to launch what was then called the Negro Life and History Collection.
The branch was renamed the Douglass-Truth Branch in 1975 after abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.
The reopening celebration begins at noon with City Librarian Deborah L. Jacobs, Mayor Greg Nickels, Library Board Trustee Michael Parham and former trustee Gordon McHenry Jr., City Councilors David Della and Richard McIver, the library book fairy "Lulu" and Cajun band Bande Pastiche.
The celebration continues with performances by Washington Middle School Strings and the Garfield High School Jazz Trio. Local dancer-poet duo Vania C. Bynum and Melissa Noelle Green will perform a piece titled "Where Movement and Word Become One." Seattle author and artist Sultan Mohamed will read from his children's book, The Story of Coffee.
Artists Dingus and Linder will talk about their branch artwork and answer questions. Craft projects are planned all afternoon in the children's area. Starbucks Coffee Co. will provide free coffee and snacks.

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