Shawnee residents say meeting space, children’s area key for Monticello library branch
With a turnout of more than 30 citizens Tuesday, Johnson County Library officials said they got a lot of great comments about what the community wants in the future Monticello Library branch.
“Now if you can figure out how to move the timeline up,” commented Doris Yantis, a Shawnee resident, referring to the projected 2018 opening date. “I think I speak for a lot of people here: We are very excited for this.”
County officials and representatives from Clark Enerson Partners, the firm selected to design the new branch, met with residents at the Shawnee Library branch in preparation of designing the Monticello branch. The library already has received more than 400 comments on its website about needs for the branch, and Tuesday’s meeting seemed to confirm some of the top requests made online: meeting space, a good children’s area and technology.
The meeting began with a review of the site for the library at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Hilltop, property the library purchased in late 2009.
“You probably have seen a sign, that we know is now faded,” joked Tricia Suellentrop, deputy county librarian. “And soon we will replace that sign with a bright and shiny, new sign.”
Last year, the library completed a comprehensive master plan, approved by the library board and county commissioners, which listed construction of the Monticello branch as the top priority. If things go to plan, Suellentrop said they hope to have the branch open in mid-2018.
Rick Wise, lead architect from Clark Enerson Partners, said they are now determining the needs for the exterior of the building, the types of spaces that will be in the building and the collection the branch will carry.
“We want to pull from you as much information as possible about the types of spaces you want to have,” he said. “How can the library best serve you and your needs as you use that building?"
The library is planned to be 30,000 square feet, making it the second-largest branch in the Johnson County Library system. By comparison, the Blue Valley Library is 24,000 square feet; the Shawnee Library is 18,000 square feet.
Officials said the city will require 100 parking spots on the site, and due to the somewhat narrow nature of the site, if the building is only one story, there won’t be much space left for green space.
“Part of the trick or the challenge with the project is how do we best utilize the space for the building, the parking, any sort of plaza space or green space we want to have, any amenities we want to have on site,” Wise said.
Suggestions for the exterior of the building included a community garden; habitats and water features to attract birds; a drive-up window both for returning books and picking up books on hold; and charging stations for electric cars.
Many residents noted that the library needed to work with the city to ensure the branch was accessible by pedestrians and bicyclists.
For the interior, several residents noted the need for meeting space and study corrals.
John Smith, who is president of the Greenview Ridge Homes Association, said while banks and churches provided some spaces, it was hard for groups to find space in the area for evening meetings.
“We have to meet at a pizza shop or someone’s home, because there’s just no meeting space,” he said.
One resident noted that they needed a good teen space and study corrals because the De Soto school district’s largest class was currently in seventh grade, so those students were going to be in high school by the time the library opened.
Attendees also said a good children’s area with an imaginative, inviting design was critical because of the number of young families in the area.
“I think it would be fabulous to see the children just running in because they’re so excited to be at the library,” Yantis said.
Also discussed for the interior were a Maker Space, a coffee shop, a non-carpeted space for cooking classes, lots of seating with technology charging stations and an exhibit area.
As for the collection, those at the meeting requested a large book collection, since the distance to other library branches is so great, including audio books, expanded options for preteens and teens, STEM books to support the Maker Space, and evening children’s activities for homes with two working parents.
Smith, who has lived in western Shawnee since 2006, said he appreciated the library’s effort to get community input.
“It’s so great to be in on the planning for something like this,” he said.
Suggestions for the branch can still be submitted online at www.jocolibrary.org/locations/monticello.