Feasibility Study for Hilltop and Eastside Library Services

Restoring Library Services to Hilltop and the Eastside 

Last update: May 1, 2024

The Tacoma Public Library (TPL) once had libraries in the Eastside and Hilltop neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have traditionally been, and currently are, communities of color, strong in diversity and community, but with relatively limited access to resources. The Swan Creek and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) libraries were closed in 2011 as the City of Tacoma experienced fiscal challenges following the Great Recession. This disinvestment of library services generated an immediate and ongoing outcry from the community and the Hilltop neighborhood in particular. Out of this came the formation of the Hilltop Library Planning Committee (HLPC), which exists and persists to this day.

In 2019, the Tacoma Public Library Director requested and received City funds to study the best way to restore library services to the Eastside and Hilltop neighborhoods. Although this project was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Study was completed in June 2022. This final report clearly articulates the respective visions of the Eastside and Hilltop communities’ desires for the restoration of library services and provides recommendations for specific facility types and service options that will best meet that vision.

Tacoma Public Library thanks all community partners and participants who contributed their time and energy to the Feasibility Study.

In 2023 TPL worked with SHKS architects on a Site Study to investigate the feasibility of building libraries on four sites: two in Hilltop and two on the Eastside. That site study enabled TPL to identify preferred locations, which in turn enabled more precise cost estimates. This short study, coupled with the earlier feasibility study, provided TPL with the necessary data to fully understand each community’s interests and the costs to fulfill them.

Also in 2023, the City of Tacoma brought a large group of constituents together (called the Facilities Advisory Committee or FAC) to study the current conditions of facilities across the City’s entire portfolio – including libraries, fire stations, public works facilities, etc. Due to years and years of deferred maintenance, the need for updates, new buildings, seismic upgrades, and simply for modern facilities has compounded. Data from the two TPL studies were shared with the FAC, including cost estimates for two new libraries. TPL also provided the committee with cost estimates to update its existing facilities. That group recommended to City Council that new libraries be built on the Eastside and in Hilltop in a report summarizing their findings.

The City used the survey data, FAC findings, and their own forecasting, which included a survey to test voter responses to a capital facilities bond package, to ultimately decide not to proceed with a facilities bond on a 2024 ballot.

As of April 2024, there are no plans to present Tacoma voters with an option to restore libraries to the Eastside and Hilltop, nor to update TPL’s existing libraries. TPL plans to continue to advocate to fill all known gaps in library services, including the extensively documented needs in the Eastside and Hilltop neighborhoods.

Review the Feasibility Study and the Site Study to see the results and recommendations from consultants, architects, and the Tacoma community regarding restoring library services to Hilltop and the Eastside.

Read the feasibility study report:, opens a new window












Watch BERK Consulting's presentation of the results:

Read the Site Study:

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