Significant changes are in store for Northland library users following the passage of Mid-Continent Public Library’s Proposition L last November.
Proceeds from the 1 percent property tax increase in Clay, Platte and Jackson counties won’t begin flowing to MCPL until December, officials say, but the library is already setting priorities on how to use the approximately $10.5 million in new revenue it will receive annually.
Jim Staley, director of community relations and planning for MCPL’s 31 branches, said the library board was expected to vote Feb. 22 to hire a partnership of architectural firms Sapp Design Associates of Springfield, which designed Woodneath Library Center and Midwest Genealogy Center, and Helix Architecture + Design of Kansas City to begin planning.
Staley and public relations coordinator Emily Brown said a series of 29 public meetings would begin on March 2. The meetings are intended to gather input from library users. Fourteen of those meetings will be held at Northland libraries.
“We want to gather community input as part of the puzzle,” said Staley, one of six library administrators, including Director Stephen Potter, who will lead MCPL’s community stakeholder discussions. “Since we’re in the process of budgeting and planning, this is a good time to have these meetings.”
Library card-holders will also receive invitations by email, as well a survey they can complete.
Each of MCPL’s branches will see building improvements and upgraded services with the new revenue. Depending on when the libraries were built — and problems they’ve encountered since — some renovations will be more extensive than others, Staley said.
For example, Woodneath Library Center, Platte City and Smithville are newer buildings and haven’t reached an age when renovations are needed, he said.
“They were the first that have community rooms, quiet meeting areas, things like that,” Staley said.
Woodneath, one of the newest facilities, will see an auditorium built onto the existing building, according to Staley.
The improvements will take place over a number of years. A schedule has yet to be determined.
Some of MCPL’s older branches were built as large open areas – basically warehouses for books and other printed matter – and have no designated areas for book groups or study sessions. Those libraries, Excelsior Springs for example, will receive enclosed areas and other improvements.
Three Northland libraries — Liberty, North Oak and Boardwalk — will be completely replaced, likely at new locations. Input on where to build them will be gathered at the upcoming community meetings, Staley said.
This branch, I know we plan to keep it in the same general area,” Staley said of Liberty, a facility that was cobbled together from two connected buildings built at different times. “It will be on this side of (Interstate) 35.”
The North Oak branch was built by a creek, and like Liberty, it has been plagued by foundation and other problems, Staley said.
The Boardwalk branch is a unique situation. Like the North Oak branch, it has no room for expansion.
“Boardwalk is kind of a well-rounded branch with a higher door count, computer usage and circulation than some others in the Northland,” he said.
MCPL plans to convert Boardwalk into what it calls “a destination branch,” which means it, like Woodneath, will offer services and programs that attract users from outside the immediate area.
In addition to building replacements and improvements, MCPL’s new funding will help fill a number of vacant staff positions, pay for new circulation materials such as books, DVDs, e-books and audio e-books, online databases and other services, and increase internet bandwidth across the system.
At the upcoming meetings, library leaders will ask users what they like and don’t like about their branches’ current services and hours.
“We’re going in thinking we can add hours where they’re wanted and needed,” Staley said.
Library users are already taking advantage of a feedback link at www.mymcpl.org/community, Brown said.
“We’ve already been getting some comments online, things like families that home-school their kids and want to get together with other families,” she said.
If you go
Public meetings will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. on the following dates at these Northland library branches:
▪ Woodneath Library Center, 8900 NE Flintlock Road, Kansas City, March 2
▪ Smithville, 120 Richardson St., Smithville, March 2
▪ Excelsior Springs, 1460 Kearney Road, Excelsior Springs, March 2
▪ Weston, 18204 Library Drive, Weston, March 6
▪ Platte City, 2702 NW Prairie View Road, Platte City, March 9
▪ Liberty, 1000 Kent St., Liberty, March 16
▪ Dearborn, 206 Maple Leaf Ave., Dearborn, March 20
▪ Boardwalk, 8656 N. Ambassador Drive, Kansas City, March 23
▪ Claycomo, 309 NE 69 Highway, Claycomo, March 23
▪ North Oak, 8700 N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, April 6
▪ Riverside, 2700 N.W. Vivion Road, Riverside, April 13
▪ Parkville, 8815 Tom Watson Parkway, Parkville, April 13
▪ Antioch, 6060 N. Chestnut Ave., Gladstone, April 27
The library is requesting preregistration at www.mymcpl.org/community.