Closing Cedar Roe won’t be the only option for library

Johnson County Library Director Sean Casserley answered individual questions after his presentation at the town hall meeting.

We like our libraries in northeast Johnson County and the Cedar Roe branch is an important part of the community. That message came through in comments and questions from the crowd Thursday at a town hall meeting on library plans.

How to approach the future of the library system – and some of its components like Cedar Roe – will be a topic when the Johnson County Library Board meets July 10. Library Director Sean Casserley said staff will put forward several scenarios for discussion. One of those scenarios stems from a 2009 facilities capital plan that suggests merging the Cedar Roe and Antioch libraries into a new building, likely in a new location.

The full room at Sylvester Powell Community Center was clearly in favor of keeping a library in Roeland Park or the northeast corner of the county. Cedar Roe is a neighborhood library that many people walk to, they pointed out, and its loss would have a deep effect on Roeland Park. One patron referred to the area as the urban core of Johnson County and said losing a library could contribute to the same flight seen in more traditional urban cores.

Casserley acknowledged that libraries generate positive economic impact in a community and pulling one out has a negative effect. Casserley said no decisions have been made about future changes. He did recount physical limitations of Cedar Roe: lack of ADA compliance, lack of exits on the mezzanine, an aging air handling unit and boiler and roof repairs.

“I think viable, health libraries are an anchor to the community,” Casserley said. “Education is the only way out of poverty.” He said the library is exploring what kind of services it should provide and looking out 20 years into the future. Already, among the trends identified are providing meeting space, a sense of place for the community and an arena for civic engagement. People also use the library for access to technology, he said.

Cedar Roe was built in 1969 and gets 133,000 visitors per year, circulating more than 250,000 items. The forum was coordinated by Roeland Park. Comments and questions about the library future can be directed to the e-mail address which is being managed by Roeland Park citizens Susan Sanders and Sandra Sanchez. Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt opened the forum Thursday.