University Branch : About the Branch

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About the University Branch

The University Branch of The Seattle Public Library has:




The renovated University Branch reopened Saturday, Oct. 13, 2007. It is the 24th project completed under the "Libraries for All" building program. (See the University Branch Building Fact Sheet for more information.)


The renovation of the historic branch was designed by Hoshide Williams Architects and built by Biwell Construction Inc.


On the main level, access to the branch was improved by opening the north and south wings and expanding the back door entry area. The circulation desk now spans the center part of the reading room to serve patrons who enter through either the front or back door.


Both levels of the 8,140-square-foot branch were repainted and recarpeted. In the meeting room, acoustical tile was added to the ceiling to reduce noise and echoes.


Outside, the exterior was painted and work around the building perimeter improved drainage.


The reading room is named after David R. Davis, an emeritus member of the board of The Seattle Public Library Foundation. (See Donors to the University Branch: Named Spaces for more information.)


Seattle artist Dennis Evans created two painted mixed-media works for the branch that are part of a series for five of the Library's Carnegie branches. All the pieces reflect classical liberal arts themes.


The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs manages the Library's public art program.



The University Branch is one of the oldest branch libraries in Seattle. It opened in its first location in March 1906 in the University Pharmacy at the entrance to the University of Washington. Several months later it moved to the nearby University M.E. Church.


In 1908, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $105,000 for three branch libraries in Seattle; one of them was in the University District.


The same year, Watson and Cornelia Allen donated land for the branch at the current location, which residents criticized as remote because it was several blocks from the commercial center of the neighborhood.


After a design competition, architects W. Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Coté designed the two-level branch, which cost $38,935 to build. The branch began serving the public Aug. 6, 1910.


The building followed one of Carnegie's preferred designs for libraries - main-floor reading areas and a lower-level auditorium. Its general architectural style is neo-classical, with a grand entrance and formal symmetry.


High ceilings, expansive windows, and hanging lamps contribute to a sense of spaciousness. Rich detailing and use of wood throughout the interior add to the warm, historic feel.


Over the years, circulation at the branch followed a familiar pattern, rising during periods of unemployment and falling during wartime. At one point during the Depression, the line of patrons waiting to check out books stretched 63 feet.


The branch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been named a landmark building by Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board.



The branch was upgraded several times but needed updating in 1998 when 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 Library system. The plan included renovating the University Branch.


Construction began in January 2007. The renovated branch reopened Oct. 13, 2007.

Safe Place

University Branch
5009 Roosevelt Way N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105



1 pm - 8 pm


1 pm - 8 pm


11 am - 6 pm


11 am - 6 pm


11am - 6 pm


11 am - 6 pm


1 pm - 5 pm

Regional Manager:
Francesca Wainwright

Libraries for All: Investing in Experiences