People who have been checking out books in the smallish space at Central Resource Library for the past nine months will barely recognize the place when it opens at 9 a.m. Friday.
Gone will be the black plastic sheets walling off the construction area. The temporary serpentine shelves and bins that offered a limited selection for browsing during construction — also gone.
In their place will be a lighter, airier and more colorful space that seeks to fill the needs of the modern library user.
There are still books, of course. But the newest offerings at the facility offer a glimpse of how libraries are evolving in a technological age. Some of the biggest changes involve more space for people wanting to learn a new technology or for community meetings.
The library, 9875 W. 87th St., Overland Park, is opening a little bit ahead of schedule and on budget, library spokesman Christopher Leitch said. When it was closed in March 2015, officials had hoped to have the reopening in February.
The 280 construction days were spent updating just about every aspect of the interior of the 20-year-old building. The outside of the building and parking lot remain largely the same, however. The $3.6 million project was funded by bonds and was not a part of the larger-scale library building plan approved last spring to be funded by increased property taxes.
Just about everything inside the library is different in one way or another. The floor plan has been reconfigured to make a larger MakerSpace studio, conference room and fundraising bookstore.
An advance tour revealed a much brighter central library with prominent lettering on colored walls marking the space. A series of orange carpet rectangles makes a “road” drawing kids to their area.
Probably the biggest change is in the MakerSpace — a workshop area with equipment for 3D printing, audio and video recording, editing and working with electronics. That space has become much more visible, with a grand entrance announcing it and sponsor Black & Veatch to the immediate left of the main door.
The construction project enlarged the MakerSpace six-fold, bringing it to 1,700 square feet. Additional support from Black &. Veatch and the Kauffman Foundation bought additional equipment as well. The library now has four 3-D printers, a Lego Mindstorms robotics kit, a soldering and electronics workbench and additional recording equipment. There’s a sound booth with specialized microphones and computer programs for computer graphics and editing. And the green screen has been expanded to an all-green room for backdrops in video recording.
The MakerSpace gives everyone an opportunity to learn skills on tech equipment that can be expensive and out of reach for some patrons, Leitch said.
“The library has always been a class-free zone,” he said.
The MakerSpace now occupies an area that used to be the Carmack Community Room. But the Carmack room has also expanded to about double its former size and moved farther inside the building. The Carmack room now seats 150 and can be booked by library cardholders online for nonprofit or community group gatherings.
Patrons also can reserve space for educational purposes at a new training lab with computers and audio-visual equipment and the library continues to offer study rooms around the peripheral walls.
Near the new Carmack room is another new feature to the facility — the Friends of the Library used bookstore. The bookstore, at 820 square feet, will become the third and largest in the county library system. Stores at Antioch and Blue Valley branches generate about total of $100,000 a year via less traffic than Centra, officials said.
Architects have rearranged the space to make it more efficient, Leitch said. For instance, the 60 computers that used to be spread throughout the library are now grouped in what was formerly the teen area, which is in another area of the library. Screens have been added so each computer station has two monitors.
The list of changes goes on. Restrooms were brightened with updated tiles and a window has been added so patrons can see the conveyor system that sorts returned items. The building got a new air-handling system and there are more electrical outlets and a counter upfront for people who bring their own electronic devices.
About the only things that weren’t relocated are the curved wall near the art display area and the genealogy and reference areas, although the reference section has been shrinking over the years with the advent of online databases, Leitch said.
But traditionalists can take heart. There’s still one artifact at Central that harkens back to the good old days.
It’s a wooden card catalog, located in the genealogy section. There are no Dewey Decimal numbers inside, though. The cards in this catalog index obituaries from The Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times, which, in some instances, can still be read on a microfilm machine.
Roxie Hammill: firstname.lastname@example.org