<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=321179481560964&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

King County Library System: An Intellectual Interior Adventure

Posted on Oct 25, 2016, by Mollie Williams

“King County Library System is a stark contrast from the often formulaic solutions of the library field. As we work to create inspiring learning environments for our community, we look to partner with like-minded companies to bring our vision to life. The expansiveness of Milliken technology draws us to collaborate and, in turn, push the limits of our learning spaces.” – David Scott-Risner, architecture and interior design coordinator at King County Library System

Effective learning spaces utilize every inch to ignite the imagination. Each element carries the potential for dual purpose – to be incredibly functional and inspirational. King County Library System in Washington – one of the busiest library systems in the United States – believes this to be true, taking full advantage of advanced environments that can be created with Milliken.

Partners for more than 10 years, King County Library System has worked with Milliken to create unique learning spaces for 48 community libraries – the majority of which were custom designs. This case study highlights how Milliken floor covering technology silently works to provide optimal environments for life-long learning – functionally, aesthetically, experientially, and fiscally. 

“Our public has come to expect this attention to detail. As we have evolved as a library system, so have our spaces," shared David Scott-Riser, architecture and interior design coordinator at King County Library System. "We’re no longer a quiet, controlled warehouse of books; we’re an inviting ‘third-space’ with a pronounced voice.”  

KCLS Case Study 1.jpg

Crossroads Library, photography by Andrew Pogue Photography.

Every single person in a library walks across the floor. It provides the biggest opportunity to reflect the user experience – particularly children as they sit, play, and read. According to Adrianne Ralph, facilities design coordinator at King County Library System, “The design of our libraries should represent everything King County Library System wants to accomplish – to provide an intellectual adventure for community members."

For King County Library System, floor covering must be durable, spark imagination, and meet numerous other functional imperatives, many of which include:

  • Withstand hundreds of daily library patrons as well as extensive cart wheel traffic
  • Provide the ease-of-maintenance and expedited installation of modular carpet but with the aesthetic of broadloom
  • Facilitate wayfinding and movement throughout libraries using color and pattern, while resisting fade amidst direct sun exposure
  • Create a healthy interior environment where children can use the floor plane without worry

To meet these challenges, a PVC-free cushion backing increases comfort underfoot and extends the first life of the carpet by up to 40 percent. The cushion also improves acoustics for easy concentration, even in high traffic areas.  

Large 1 meter by 1 meter carpet tiles with tight seaming ensures that tiles stay secure, while also offering the appearance of broadloom. Custom capabilities enable King County Library System to design patterns for intuitive user flow with superior print color quality. 

KCLS Vashon blog 3.jpg

Vashon Library, photography by Benjamin Benschneider.

Jan Riley, operations supervisor at Vashon Library, believes features that improve health and safety are critical, especially with a large older population. 

“Safety is a huge issue in learning environments. Milliken carpet lays down nicely, without any splitting or curled edges at tile seams. This is critical for children who run around the space and older patrons who use walkers,” Riley noted. “Our community is very environmentally aware, and healthy materials are also important. Milliken’s PVC-free carpet construction helps us know we are providing a safe interior environment for our community.”

Designed in collaboration with SRG Architects, the interior of Federal Way 320th Library features a lot of color to enliven the library experience and reflect the diverse energy of the community, on the edge of a commercial corridor. Custom carpet features a repetition of circles, which look hand drawn. The perimeter seating area features the same pattern, but in blue to mimic water and encourage a more reflective space.

KCLS Federal Way 320th blog.jpg

Federal Way 320th Library, photography by Lara Swimmer. 

Using the best possible floor covering is particularly vital in children’s areas. With children reading, sitting, and crawling on the floor, the carpet is the most experienced surface. These everyday tactile interactions require that products be safe, healthy, and extremely durable.

For increased functionality, Milliken carpet comes standard with:

  • StainSmart® stain repel/resist and soil release for easy everyday cleaning
  • AlphaSan® anti-microbial protection, which protects against bacteria and other microbes that cause foul odors and discoloration
  • PVC-free cushion backing for increased comfort and carpet longevity

Children’s areas are also made special by creating a custom floor covering pattern unique to the remainder of the space. For the Vashon Library, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, brightly colored monster critters add fun and whimsy to the children’s section.


Vashon Library, photography by Benjamin Benschneider.

“People comment on how beautiful the libraries are – especially in communities with less privileged neighborhoods. They can feel safe and have access to tools they wouldn’t normally – open spaces to do school work, and new, comfortable carpet to sit and play. Children comment on the carpet, too, saying ‘look at this carpet, it is so cool!’," commented Gregory Smith, director of facilities management services and development at King County Library System.

Thousands of people come through the doors of King County Library System community libraries each month, so carpet goes through the daily rigors of heavy foot and cart wheel traffic. Nonetheless, Milliken has performed in King County Library System spaces for more than 10 years – and is outlasting furniture in many spaces.

KCLS Newcastle Library blog.jpg

Newcastle Library, photography by Benjamin Benschneider. 

“The community supports the library system, from planning to opening. We attend public meetings to gather input when we open a new branch – and then create a custom space reflective of their hometown," Ralph conitnued. "It’s a community experience, and it is evident on opening day when children and families pour in to use the new library.”

Topics: Design

Mollie Williams

Written by Mollie Williams