Lindsay Peyton
The White Center Library was nominated for “Building of the Year 2016” by the Daily Journal of Commerce. Since opening in May, the library’s usage has increased and the facility has become a fixture in the community.

A box of light – White Center Library recognized for unique architecture

By Lindsay Peyton

The White Center Library’s nomination for “Building of the Year 2016” by the Daily Journal of Commerce only confirmed what Angelina Benedetti already thought.

“We have a beautiful space,” the regional library manager said. “It’s a better location. It’s a bigger space, and we’re able to offer more.”

Ben Minnick, an editor with the Daily Journal of Commerce, said the annual contest began in 2012.

This year, Minnick, along with publisher Phil Brown and managing editor Maude Scott, gathered a list of 40 to 50 projects to consider for the award – and then narrowed down the selection to a dozen nominees, which were placed online for a vote.

“The readers are the ones who actually determined the winner,” he said.

While the White Center Library did not take home the grand prize, Minnick said making it on the list of finalists is a worthy distinction.

“We notice buildings that are unique or special in some way,” he said. “The White Center Library is a box of light. Libraries have evolved over the years. The ones built today are designed to attract the passerby.”

Benedetti said this location of the King County Library System definitely draws area residents inside.

“We’ve gotten really busy,” she said. “It shows that the community is really using the library and using the space. We are noticing a 40 to 60 percent increase in usage.”

The library opened in May, and Benedetti credits the building’s location on 1409 SW 107th St as part of the draw.

She also said the increase in size – from 6,000 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. – allows the library to offer more programs.

“If you program it, the will come,” Benedetti said.

For example, in one large conference room, librarian Devon Abejo hosts events just for teens. A video game projected on a large screen had captivated a pile of students.

She’s partnering with Navos to create a cultural competency class for teens. “They can talk about what’s going on and how they’re feeling,” she said.

The teens also are invited for art programs and movie nights – and Abejo will start a girls-only gaming event soon.

The library has options for all ages. Adults may sign up for from discussion groups, meditations and reading circles. There are also story times in Spanish.

Benedetti said the new space also benefits from a collection of art – including from local photographer Christopher Boffoli, nationally renowned artist Martin Puryear, local painter M Kallis and sculptor Ann Gardner.

There are also historic photographs from White Center on the walls, as well as an original sign for an earlier location of the White Center Library.

“It was really important for us to have a strong art presence here,” Benedetti said.

The library has meeting rooms that community groups may reserve, study rooms and tables for laptops. Guests filled the computer area – and many were propped on couches and chairs reading library books.

Skylights and a full wall of windows made for an especially bright interior.

Benedetti said architectural firm NBBJ did a top-notch job designing the library. “They were very concerned with wanting to make sure it really honored the local community,” she said. “I loved how conscientious they were. They wanted to honor White Center as a unique place.”

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