Joco 913

Lenexa City Center branch represents Johnson County Library’s bright future

An architectural rendering of the interior for the new Lenexa City Center Library.
An architectural rendering of the interior for the new Lenexa City Center Library. Photo provided

For the past 60 years, the Johnson County Library system has provided a vital community service, fostering literacy across the county while providing opportunities and access for individuals to learn, read and grow.

The Johnson County Library’s 13 campuses serve more than 2 million people in northeast Kansas, but the system isn’t finished growing and changing.

At a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday morning, the Johnson County Library took a momentous step to carry this tradition into the future. As part of their mission to create modern environments for people to learn, explore, create, and connect, the library launched construction of the new, 40,000 square-foot Lenexa City Center Library.

The new library, which is scheduled to open in 2019, will serve the former Lackman Library patrons.

During the past two years, a diverse community of professionals have collaborated on a master plan to fulfill the library’s vision for the Lenexa City Center branch.

“We’ve had many colleagues on this project,” said Nancy Hupp, acting chair of the Johnson County Library Board of Directors, during remarks before the groundbreaking. “Members of the Lenexa city government along with the Board of City Commissioners, city managers, the city of Lenexa staff, the library board, Hollis and Miller Architects, Turner Construction, and our library staff and volunteers have all contributed.”

The new two-story library will be considered a destination branch, with an open connecting gallery space and a drive-up window with automated conveyance.

As Johnson County Library continues to move full steam into the future, the new facility stands in stark contrast to when it started out in the 1950s.

Before funding was available for an actual brick-and-mortar library, dedicated families and community members operated libraries in their basements, schoolhouses, and numerous other unexpected locations. A barber shop, a plumbing company, a shopping center, and a traveling bookmobile all served as volunteer libraries before the first official Johnson County Library was built in Merriam.

“The library has always been a very important community asset,” said Ed Eilert, Chair, Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. “Every survey we take, the library ranks very high with interest and support. I remember an early meeting I once had at the Central Resource Library. It was scheduled before the library opened that day. When I arrived, people were standing in line to come in.

“After my meeting 45 minutes later, the library was full and the meeting rooms were full. I thought to myself that this was indicative of the pursuit of information and knowledge that is the hallmark of our community.”

That pursuit is leading to prolific library growth.

In addition to the new Lenexa City Center branch, the new Monticello branch is also under construction near Shawnee Mission Parkway and Hilltop Drive. Renovations also are planned at the Corinth and Blue Valley branches.

“I can’t believe it when I hear libraries are a thing of the past,” Hupp said. “The need for libraries is greater than ever. It’s the needs people have of the libraries that are changing. They come for information they can’t get anywhere else — and for help from the librarians. Our library staff is so well-educated. They are amazing.”

Two years ago, Hupp attended a library conference in Colorado, during which a number of authors spoke about the influence of libraries in their lives.

“So many authors said their worlds started with the help of a librarian at a library when they were kids,” she said.