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Johnson County's Central library set to debut drive-thru, areas for kids 'to burn off some steam'

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
An interactive play space for toddlers at the renovated Johnson County Library's Central Resource location.

Here's a sneak peak at the new children's area and other renovations made over the past year. They include a drive-thru, but "we're not trying to sell you something," head librarian promises.

Johnson County's Central Resource Library in Overland Park is set to re-open Tuesday after being partially closed for a year. When the library closed for renovations last February, the staff walled off a small portion of the building and called it Little Central to keep patrons safe from construction.

Little Central closed on Feb. 14 of this year so workers could finish final touches and knock down the partition wall. Librarians at Central said they are excited to welcome patrons back to a space that’s nature-themed in staff spaces and throughout, which Johnson County head librarian Sean Casserley said connects employees and patrons to the larger, overarching goal of the library.

“Having a connection to nature was really important in the sense that it was calming, relaxing,” said Casserley. “And I think that's the thing, the role the public library plays, which is we have no agenda. We're not trying to sell you something. There aren't any politics. We are completely neutral and our goal is to find something that interests you.”

A bigger, relocated kids’ area

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
Head Librarian Sean Casserley walks past the windows in the children's section.

The children’s area at Central is now in a different part of the library and is more interactive and open. Large rectangular windows line the far wall, with bright orange window seating.

Casserley said the new windows fill the space with natural light and connect kids to the Strang Park Playground behind the library. When the project came in under budget, he said, they were able to build a small play area directly outside the library.

“And I think that's going to be really interesting and something that parents are really going to enjoy,” he said. “If you have a rambunctious or high energy two year old that has to burn off some steam, there's going to be a space that you can do that outside, or if they're just having a meltdown, that's going to be great.”

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
The new story telling room has plenty of space for kids to dance, sing, and listen to story readings. Rectangular cushions allow children to arrange the room to their liking.

There’s also a new storytelling room that allows children to be as loud or animated as they need to without disturbing other patrons. The room is equipped with furniture cushions that kids can rearrange and build with, and Casserley said having a designated room for story time will allow librarians to incorporate song and dance into their storytelling sessions.

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A brightly colored, swirled bench sits in the new children's area in front of alphabet wallpaper. Casserley said the wallpaper can help kids identify letters.

Added convenience via a drive-thru

According to Casserley, when conversations about major renovations started almost ten years ago, community members voiced their desire for a drive-thru. Casserley said that called for major changes and took a lot of construction, but he’s proud they were able to pull it off.

“If they (library patrons) want to come and enjoy the building and they have time, that's an option,” said Casserley. “If they have mobility issues, or today, like it's a snow day and you don't want to get out of your car, or it's 106 degrees out, and you've got a nice outfit and you don't want to be drenched and sweat, just come through the drive through, pick up the book.”

Library goers can also return books through the drive-thru, and if they select "drive-thru" as their pickup location for a hold, holds can be picked up through the drive-thru, too.

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
A Janome sewing machine, one of the many additions to the Black & Veatch MakerSpace.

New equipment in the Black & Veatch MakerSpace

The MakerSpace is a department of the library dedicated to people who want a hands-on experience. During the renovations, a handful of new equipment was added to the space. Makers will find two new, powerful Trotec laser cutters; a new, faster CNC router which is used to cut patterns out of wood; a CNC router room (formerly the recording booth); 3D and resin printers; and other equipment. People will also be able to check out Maker kits to craft at home.

Casserley said although the equipment in the MakerSpace might look intense and hard to use, it’s for everyone and staff members can assist in teaching people how to use the equipment.

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Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
The new staff break room is bright and cheerful.

Updated, open-concept staff areas

About 100 employees work at the Central Resource Library and before renovations, the staff spaces were stuffy and outdated.

Casserley said they designed the new staff space with a strong focus on teamwork, and the improved staff spaces will help employees serve the community better. He said librarians are friendlier and more excited to help curate a person’s reading experience than people think.

“We felt like by creating open spaces, that future generations of librarians would be able to configure the space, to meet the need, to provide those needs for the public service,” said Casserley. “Because libraries have changed maybe in the last 40 or 50 years. They're very different today than they were in the past, you know, you still see on TV, the stereotype of the librarian going ‘shh.’”

Clarification: We've updated the original story to provide more clarity on the new drive-thru process.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.
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