Columbia Branch : About the Branch

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About the Columbia Branch

The Columbia Branch of The Seattle Public Library has:



The newly expanded Columbia Branch at 4721 Rainier Ave. S. opened Aug. 22, 2004. It was the 12th project completed under the "Libraries for All" building program. (See the Columbia Branch Building Facts for more information.)


The branch is in the Columbia City Landmark District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The expansion was designed by Cardwell Architects and built by Graham Contracting Ltd. The addition, which was built onto the back of the existing branch, was designed to respect the architecture of the original building.


The children's area, new reading room, study room, meeting room and staff areas are in the new addition, overlooking the adjacent Columbia Park. Each space has large park-side windows for daylight and great views of grass, trees and sky. Construction materials were chosen to complement, but not match the historical building.


The children's area is a bright porch-like room with park views to the north and west. The reading room is naturally lit with diffused daylight from the overhead roof projection, which is equipped with electronically controlled louvers to release rising warm air.


Photographs of residents of the multicultural neighborhood make up the artwork for the expansion. The 42 photographs - taken by Vancouver, B.C., artist Gu Xiong - are accompanied by messages written in English and the residents' native languages that evoke a sense of joy and belonging.


Xiong, a Chinese immigrant and survivor of a Cultural Revolution work camp, uses his work to explore cross-cultural issues and questions of identity. He draws on his experience as an immigrant to examine universal issues of belonging and understanding.


Forty of the photographs and accompanying messages are installed in large displays on top of the bookshelves. Another two are mounted on a wall.



On June 22, 1909, The Seattle Public Library opened a small branch library in the main room of Columbia City Hall. The Board of Public Works provided the room rent-free. The restroom was in the furniture store across the unpaved street, over the double tracks of the railroad. The collection started with 1,200 books.


In 1911, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave the Library $70,000 to build two branch libraries. In 1912, a site was chosen for the Columbia Branch and was purchased with $2,500 in money collected by community members and $2,000 from the city.


Seattle architects W. Marbury Somervell and Harlan Thomas designed the Beaux-Arts, Georgian Revival style building. The Columbia Library opened Dec. 30, 1915.


The branch got a facelift in 1986, funded by the 1984, $3.9 million bond issue to restore the old Carnegie libraries.



In 1998, voters approved the $196.4 million "Libraries for All" bond measure and The Seattle Public Library Foundation pledged to contribute privately raised money to improve the entire Library system. The plan included expanding the Columbia Branch.


Construction began in August 2003. The expanded branch reopened Aug. 22, 2004.

Safe Place

Columbia Branch
4721 Rainier Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98118



10 am - 8 pm


10 am - 8 pm


10 am - 8 pm


10 am - 8 pm


10 am - 6 pm


10 am - 6 pm


1 pm - 5 pm

Regional Manager:
Wei Cai

Libraries for All: Investing in Experiences