Changing space needs prompt county to consider $8.7 million in updates to Central Resource Library

The Johnson County Library’s Central Resource Branch may be getting some updates.

The county is considering $8.7 million of additional work to the Central Resource Library in Overland Park because of changing space needs brought about, in part, by construction of the new library branch in Merriam.

County commissioners will discuss whether to add the amount into future budgets at its Oct. 31 meeting.

Central Resource underwent a major renovation in 2016 that resulted in enlarged meeting rooms and a bigger and better-equipped maker space area as well as brighter décor. That project cost $3.6 million. But because of budget constrictions at the time it was approved, it didn’t cover some other needs, said County Librarian Sean Casserley. Officials left the rest to be done in a future second phase.

In the meantime, a mill levy increase made money available for new branches in several county locations, including Monticello, Lenexa and Merriam. The new Merriam branch will replace the Antioch branch at 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway with a new building at the community center under construction at the old Vavra Park.

However the new Merriam branch will be about 16,000 square feet, a little over half the space the library will vacate in the two Antioch buildings. So the Central Resource project will mainly involve reconfiguring its space to accommodate staff members and materials that will move from Antioch.

There will be a few other changes as well. Library officials want to add a drive-through window and strengthen the corridor now used as a storm shelter for patrons in weather emergencies. And part of the funds would go toward some exterior and parking lot changes and replacement of aging mechanical systems with more energy efficient ones.

They also hope to move the children’s section toward the back of the building, farther from the front entrance and closer to fire exits, Casserley said. That will also make it possible to make use of windows overlooking Strang Park. The library is working with Overland Park to find ways to connect the library with the park, which is being redesigned.

Casserley said the changes will also be done with the aim of making the space more efficient and getting more back to the public. The computer lab, for example, might need less space if laptop lending becomes as popular at Central Resource as it has been in the Lenexa and Monticello branches, he said.

The project may also involve moving other areas around from their current spots to make moving books and materials more efficient, he said. Some space also could come from the library bookstore. Casserley said officials are studying whether it would be feasible to combine the three library bookstores under one roof at the former Lackman Library building in Lenexa.

The project, if approved, would be paid for mainly by bonds, with about $1.7 million from library cash reserves.