The Mid-Continent Public Library system was designed at a time when a gallon of gas cost less than 90 cents, the Beatles disbanded and the Vietnam War ended.
MCPL Director Steve Potter described the 1970s conceptualization of a library as a “warehouse full of books.” So the current buildings don’t have enough electrical outlets, meeting rooms and programming space, he said.
That’ll change with the $113.2 million library capital improvement plan, which launched in May and construction began at the Blue Springs South and Excelsior Springs branches this week. Those two will be closed until the fall — and are among more than 30 libraries that’ll be renovated.
“As we talked to people, they said, ‘Rather than having this great big room or great big warehouse that holds all these books, what if, for our programming space, we could have actual walls that kept the sounds from going into the rest of the library,’” Potter said.
Construction also is slated to start this week at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, although visitors will still be able to use it during construction. MCPL is building a community hall that will hold around 400 people; the center previously used a classroom for events that held 50 people.
“It’s going to be a huge improvement for both the customers here, the staff and the community,” Midwest Genealogy Center manager Cheryl Lang said.
Potter says MCPL created the schedule for library construction based on need.
“We also tried to make sure we weren’t closing any two branches that were nearby,” Potter said.
People can use Blue Springs North library, which is roughly four miles away from Blue Springs South. And the Hall of Waters is being used as an alternative location for the Excelsior Springs library.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @avivaokeson.