Core Design Team

Firm: Integrus

Mark Dailey
Ty Miller
Megan Onley
Toby Peterson
Steven Clark
Cody Dompier
Jose Barajas


Library Programming Consultant: Group 4 Architecture
Contractor: Leone & Keeble
Mechanical Engineering: MW Consulting Engineers
Electrical Engineering: MW Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: AHBL
Landscape Architect: AHBL

Project Narrative

This bright, inviting library elevates the story for a marginalized area and reinvigorates an underutilized public park. Surrounded by basalt cliffs and with expansive park views, the library’s simple but inspiring aesthetic complements its natural setting. The park is a once notable greenspace designed in the 1900’s by the famed Olmsted Brothers, later falling into disuse after being split by construction of the I-90 highway. As the Spokane Public Library assessed service gaps and needs district wide, the search for new library sites included Liberty Park. Voters enthusiastically approved new funding for multiple library capital projects–Liberty Park is one of seven new or updated library projects completed throughout Spokane in an aggressive two-year span. This popular library in a park draws people from throughout the district, expanding opportunities for community connection, learning and programs in an under-served area. It also brings new energy and serves as a catalyst for a master plan reimagining the underused park as the heart of its diverse neighborhood.

Design Inspiration
Building design draws inspiration from traditional parklike structures, including classic picnic shelters. In northwest style, natural building materials complement the park setting in color, texture, and tone. The steel and wood structure and weathering steel cladding serve as interior finishes, complemented with the use of wood wall paneling and a bright orange metal panel—all enduring, cost effective, and easily maintained materials—that meet the library district’s efficiency and maintenance goals. The expressed structure at the roof opens to the west letting in daylight and strengthening the visual connection to the park. A roof overhang and wraparound walkway act as a ‘front porch’ providing shade and shelter for patrons. The basalt plinth grounds the building and gestures to the regional basalt of the site.

This modestly budgeted, publicly funded library embraces the idea that there is great beauty and economy in simplicity. Using off-the-shelf framing lumber and weathering steel celebrates using everyday materials in innovative ways. Exposed honest finishes bring the exterior to the interior with an unpretentious interior palette that will wear well over time. Other cost-effective strategies include a repeatable 4’ building module reducing material waste and simplifying construction, and an exposed simple roof structure that provides function, finish, and aesthetics. The building diagram is intentionally simple, flexible, and open for easy navigation and providing staff visual security from anywhere in the library. Layout is driven by a centrally located marketplace featuring an engaging ‘café bookstore’ at entry. The single point of service near the entrance enables staff to efficiently serve patrons throughout the library. The 24/7 library gives library card holders after hours use of a large meeting room and group study spaces. For flexibility, meeting rooms open to accommodate a range of programs and events. The whimsical children’s discovery area is featured in a prime west side location with abundant daylight, views, and access to the porch area. The theme draws from local folklore as well as the park setting, giving children the sense of reading among the trees.

Building Integration
The library is positioned at the highest point in the park, featuring geologic views of nearby basalt cliffs and old growth evergreen trees. The design inspired by familiar picnic shelters features an honest simple form and structural clarity. The library serves as the park’s literal ‘front porch’ articulated by a generous roof overhang, large windows/views, and prominent positioning on a basalt plinth overlooking the park. The library is rooted to its unique place in its form and use of hard-working materials that connect to its immediate context and history in a logging and farming region. The prominent roof features off the shelf cost-effective wood and steel framing reinforcing the idea of shelter, providing shade, and allowing for outdoor community events in the northwest climate. With a generous use of glass and simple open form, the library does not intrude in its surroundings. Materials gesture to the tones and textures of the regional basalt and natural setting and are intended to age over time with the environment. The library occupies the footprint of the park’s former tennis courts leveraging existing open space to avoid removal of adjacent specimen trees during construction. Overall design reinforces the library’s connection to the park with abundant views and natural daylight to blur the line between interior and exterior spaces.

Environmental Sensitivity
The material palette for Liberty Park Library is intentionally simple, with wood, weathering steel and glass as the predominant materials. Natural materials serve as both structure and finish. A hierarchy of glulam beams, 2×8 purlins, and exposed plywood roof sheathing make up the prominent roof plane, highlighting the idea of shelter as well as providing significant shading for the generous curtain wall on the south façade and porch. Inside, minimizing built-in casework was made possible by using flexible moveable shelving and furniture, contributing to using less materials. Where used, these and other finishes and materials were selected to meet SCAQMD Rule 1168, Green Label Plus, Greenguard, and Green Seal GS-11 requirements.

Site design and landscaping around the library complements the natural setting and provides a learning moment for school children and the community. The informal ‘American meadow’ landscape features drought tolerant regional grasses, clover, and a variety of wildflowers, showcasing the benefits and beauty of waterwise native grasses and flowers. This natural approach aligns with the libraries’ sustainable goals, lowers maintenance costs, creates habitat for pollinators, requires less water than a lawn and doesn’t require pesticides or fertilizers. This design approach also serves as a positive message for the adjacent park’s master landscape plan.

Water is a valued resource in the Spokane Valley, and water conservation was of paramount importance for the library. The design reduces indoor water use by 35% compared with the baseline requirements in the EPAct of 1992 (amended 2005; adopted LEED). Low-flow toilets and urinals reduced water consumption by 20% and 88% respectively, while faucets result in 30% water savings. High-efficiency but minimally used irrigation equipment, a weather-based controller, and native, regional plants provide at least 50% water savings over a ‘typical’ irrigation base. Exterior landscaping and site design also contributes to conservation of water, maintenance and lack of chemical use.

Social impact
The goal for Liberty Park library is to lift the diverse local community, culture, and voices. It provides much needed services, collections, programs, and access to this diverse community. It came out of a master planning process for Spokane Public Library facilities, during which a community engagement process clarified the need for improved library services and facilities citywide, particularly for sidelined areas. Locating a new library at the Liberty Park site was the result of robust community engagement which preferred this location over rebuilding a new library at a previous library site as had been planned. This impactful decision created an authorship and sense of pride for the neighborhood and library patrons that didn’t exist in the current location. With this decision it became ‘their’ library and their park.

Designed to support a wide variety of uses, it is open a full 24/7 hours of operation for boisterous and loud activities in the program room to reading and contemplation in quiet study rooms. The library is an intersection and destination for the existing Benn Burr regional trail which hugs the nearby basalt cliffs and the future Children of the Sun trail which originates in the north Spokane Hillyard neighborhood. These trails are and will be popular biking, walking, and running opportunities for the community.

Client Satisfaction
Change is expected and encouraged for this facility over its 100+ year life. The design embraces an open plan with a regular module and column spacing allowing for ultimate flexibility. Enclosed spaces are transparent for good visual connections and the MEP and security systems are zoned to allow for 24/7 use for group and individual use, knowing that needs will change over time this approach was important. As mentioned previously, most furniture, including shelving, is moveable and built-in casework was kept to a minimum. Ample wifi and power connections were considered for long term flexibility as well.

The Liberty Park Library is entirely about discovery. A casual visitor is enticed by the transparency, color, materiality, connection to the park and unique landscape design. The enhanced children’s discovery area featuring ‘Sasquatch’s Lair’ was a desire of the community and occupies prime floor area in the northwest corner of the plan with generous views and daylight, underlining the library’s goal of providing an unexpected and delightful learning experience for children and families. Connecting the library to not only the activities of the park but also the adjacent public swimming pool creates complimentary uses, these shared assets have energized the overall park and entire East Central neighborhood, a historically under-served area of the city. The addition of this branch in an underserved community reinforces the Library Districts commitment to provide access to information and much needed services to its communities. This library is a direct reflection of the input received from the community for the type of spaces and services they were lacking and the feedback from patrons has been overwhelmingly positive.