Johnson County Library will open new Monticello branch in Shawnee Sunday

Carrie Worth, youth librarian, and Christian Madrigal, branch manager, will help oversee operations at the new Monticello library in Shawnee.

The new Monticello branch in western Shawnee is opening this weekend — the latest addition to the Johnson County Library’s facilities.

The library will celebrate with a grand opening on Sunday. Doors open to the public at 1 p.m. and the event will include building tours and the chance to speak with the artists behind some of the displays in the state of the art facility. The library chose to hold the grand opening on Sunday in part to highlight the fact the Monticello will be one of five branches with Sunday hours.

We got a sneak peek at the interior of the facility this week. Here’s a look at what awaits patrons when it opens to the public August 5.

Patrons may first notice the ground floor’s overwhelming devotion to the kids section: a dedicated storytime space designed for multi-use programming, plus early childhood 6-by-6 stations, a colorful play corner and little desks and computers for little learners.

But the new library also boasts two stories of several book sections for adult readers, seven study rooms with media device hookups, a large meeting room and even a conference room shaped for group conversation without the distraction of a screen.

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows create an open, airy space with natural lighting. Yet the entire facility is designed for the peace and quiet of libraries; footsteps are softened by carpet floors and walls, and many of the unique seats along the edges of the building are shaped to block out nearby noises.

“We asked the public what they wanted,” said Christian Madrigal, Monticello Library branch manager, adding that study rooms and meeting space were high in demand. “So we maximized the space for our patrons by cutting back on our own workspace. We took the space for our library staff and gave it back to the patrons.”

That means no personal offices for library staff. Instead, the staff uses a few round service desks out on the floor as well as a shared workspace that also has a few small meeting rooms. That staff workspace also houses an automatic sorter of returned books and materials, so the library engineered a “pink noise” to dull the sound of the machine and reduce their colleagues’ conversation echoes.

The grand exception to the library’s overall quietude is a special circle on the ground floor, where patrons may notice a curious reverberation of their voices and footsteps as they echo off the tile and rounded bookshelves and up into the ceiling.

Carrie Worth, youth librarian, said the clear view of Shawnee’s native prairie environment affords many opportunities for Monticello Library to incorporate the outdoors into programming.

Nearly every sitting area has an electric outlet for patrons to plug in their devices. Some spaces are designed for study, others for private reading, and still others for group activities like board games (which are coming soon). The seating was all designed for flexible use, based on patrons’ individual needs, desires, body types and comfort styles, Madrigal said.

A set of green “Spanish steps” create a playing/waiting area for visitors alongside the grand staircase that leads to the second floor of fiction and teen sections, music library and more study rooms.

Also in the works are laptops for checkout; these will accompany the library’s upstairs open workstation suite of desktop computers, including iMacs installed with the Adobe Creative Suite. Patrons can create 3D prints and send them to Central Resource Library to be printed in the MakerSpace.

The “piece de resistance” for both Worth and Madrigal is the rooftop terrace, with at least half a dozen picnic tables, drought-resistance native greenery and a view looking east onto the nearby retail development. Benches will soon be installed along the edge of the terrace:

Madrigal said he’s also excited for the opportunities associated with the rooftop terrace, including the “programming possibilities about this branch that an outdoor space affords.”

The teen section on the second floor looks much like the rest of the library for adult patrons — except it also has a couple of chairs that enclose the occupant, who can hook up their device to a USB port and listen to music or audio books. Worth said these seats were a favorite by Shawnee police officers, who recently got a sneak peek of the facility.

Other tech-centric features include six touchscreen self-checkout stations, four online library catalogs, mounted big-screens for patrons to cast their devices and a digital display outside the large meeting room (located just beyond the movie library on the ground floor).

Monticello Library also features a drop-off box as well as a drive-up window for patrons to pick up books and materials they have on hold. Books and materials placed in the drop-off box go through an automatic sorter: A conveyor belt carries items to a machine that reads the barcode on the item and drops it into one of half a dozen buckets.

Monticello Library has no cafe because the staff doesn’t want to compete with nearby food and drink vendors, Worth said. Food and drink is allowed anywhere in the library.

The finishing touches are still being made even this week. But while most of Monticello Library is complete, it is still a work in progress, said Christopher Leitch, community relations coordinator. That’s because the library staff will need to gauge actual interest from patrons on library features, compared with feedback from the public prior to construction.

“We have an idea of our patrons’ demographics, but until you open the library, there will always be an element of surprise,” Leitch said. “As the staff gets to know the profiles of users in the community, it will help them to better tailor the services they provide here.”