A makeover for Parkville library
hether you’re seeking knowledge from books, serenity in a wellness room, a cozy corner to rest your bones, or a flick for tonight’s entertainment, Mid-Continent Public Library has a versatile branch waiting to serve its visitors.
This past year, the Parkville Branch library located just off Tom Watson Parkway reopened its automatic doors following a major renovation project. Observing the public’s enjoyment of the upgrades is telling of how well the new design meets the community’s needs.
Library officials on Dec. 10 hosted a rededication ceremony in honor of its renovation. The reopening ceremony for the $1.4 million renovation was postponed until recently as a result of the COVID pandemic.
“We’re so excited to have this belated celebration, which is a great opportunity for community members to stop by and see the upgrades made to their branch if they haven’t already,” said Samantha Faulkner, Parkville branch assistant manager. “The improvements made to our building ensure that our team is able to better serve Parkville residents for years to come.”
Most striking upon entry is the expansive flow of space, improved accessibility, and modern, functional elements. A combination of natural wood furnishings and linear patterned carpets boost a balance that library officials believe is both laid back and fun.
Mid-Continent partnered on the design with Sapp Design Architects and Helix Architecture + Design. The actual construction, carried out by JE Dunn, was completed within budget just before the recent increase in construction costs.
There’s a renovated well-lit community room, glass enclosed meeting space, and wellness room with a serene color scheme. An elongated circulation area is the centerpiece of the library. Media like DVD’s and CDs are available in a section near the meeting room and restrooms. The library is absent of wall scones, but fluorescent tubes mounted to the ceiling provide proper reading light
Instead of immensely tall bookshelves that block parental supervision of kids, the children’s section features smaller dimension bookshelves and charming activity areas for kiddos to lounge comfortably and read in.
The children’s section also features earthy tone ottomans and AWE learning’s computer equipped with exciting games. It is a powerful testament to quality and useful resources for early literacy, with educational manipulatives and scores of picture books to boost motor and learning skills.
In the front of the library there is a dedicated outdoor space for visitors to gather. Researchers recently learned that having a visual connection to the outdoors enhances focus and offers health benefits. The outdoor setting area has a gated entrance and welcome amenities, including lounge chairs and round picnic tables.
“Our branch was very much due for an update, but we were blown away with all the improvements that were made,” said Faulkner. “The improvements were more than we expected, and we were particularly excited to see all the new work and study areas, which our customers have definitely taken advantage of. In fact, the collaboration rooms have been consistently used since we reopened. The Parkville Branch is now truly a place where people can gather.”
Library officials say there are now 87,125 items on the shelves at the Parkville Branch. System wide, there are five million physical items in the Mid-Continent Public Library collection (this does not include all the system’s digital resources, eBooks, etc.).
The original brick wall library in Parkville was erected in 1992. Building improvements, new furnishings, and expanded branch hours were made possible when voters passed Proposition L, an eight-cent operating tax levy in November of 2016, which generated about $11 million.
The branch was closed for remodeling for about a seven month period beginning in July of 2020. Still, in fiscal year 2020-2021 the Parkville Branch checked out more than 101,000 physical items, including books, DVDs, and CDs. While the library branch stopped hosting its 600 or so programs a year due to the pandemic, it does have a prominent renovated space for visitors once in-person events return.
Parkville Branch is just one of many library branches to be the focus of an extensive renovation in the Mid-Continent Public Library system. Nearly every branch has been renovated, remodeled or entirely replaced if expansion limitations get in the way. The 56-year-old library system is focused on adding more intentional spaces and improving accessibility of technology.
According to library officials, the renovations have proved gratifying. Last year, “more than 7.1 million items were checked out from Mid-Continent Public Library (this includes both physical and digital materials – so books, DVDs, etc. as well as eBooks, eAudiobooks, etc.),” said Emily Becker, community relations specialist for the MCPL.
Normally, the library hosts more than 11,000 events at its 35 branches. When the pandemic hit the library system did have to scale back and host the majority of its programs virtually.
“We’re starting to host more in-person events but still have many online as well,” said Becker. “In fiscal year 2020-21, we hosted over 1,500 programs, with many of those offered virtually.”
The last couple years also spawned the addition of curbside service. It helped bridge the gap, especially when libraries had to close their doors due to the pandemic.