By Paul Thompson
Facilitators at the Wednesday, October 3 North-East Public Library visioning session asked attendees to set aside practicality and describe their wildest dreams for their local library branch.
If a November 6, 2018 ballot item to approve an eight-cent property tax levy increase for the library is approved by voters, the North-East branch would be first in line for renovations. Kansas City Public Library Executive Director Crosby Kemper III told the Northeast News in August that the library could receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.75 million.
Kemper added that those upgrades could include new shelving, parking lot and bathroom improvements, new study rooms and upgraded technology including new computers, electronic whiteboards and larger screens in study rooms. That said, the library is still eager for feedback from those who use the library most.
Library designer Matt Glawatz, the leader architect with The Clark Enersen Partners, led the visioning session on October 3. Despite a smaller-than-expected crowd, Glawatz said afterwards that he was happy with the feedback provided.
“We’ve heard a lot about the need for more meeting rooms, more educational opportunities within the community,” Glawatz said. “We want to explore the need for more robust teen areas, and areas for children, areas for family, and areas for people to come and search for a job.”
Glawatz asked five questions of the attendees, beginning with a query about the library’s best current features. Some positives included the location of the branch, the knowledge and friendliness of the staff, the branch’s exercise programs, and the fact that the library offers postage services. One attendee said they liked to work at branch, while another credited the library for hosting public meetings.
The second question revolved around services or programs that don’t currently exist at the North-East branch. One suggestion was that the library bring back GED classes, while another individual requested expanded hours.
Mary Cincotta, President of the Northeast High School Alumni Association, offered a suggestion for youth in the area.
“I’d also like to see an internship for students at Northeast High School,” Cincotta said, adding that the library should also take advantage of the fact that many high school students need community service hours.
The third question asked about the types of spaces that patrons would like to see on the inside and outside of the branch.
One attendee suggested adding a theater for movie screenings; another patron said that a coffee shop or bakery would be a positive amenity. Other ideas included the potential construction of an outdoor patio and an expanded facility across the street.
The fourth question asked about how the library can contribute to the community. Those in attendance praised the North-East branch in this respect. In particular, one individual said that former branch manager Claudia Visnich was proactive in getting a mailbox and P.O. boxes placed outside the branch. One new idea proposed at the meeting was for the North-East Branch to begin offering passport services.
The final question referred to technology improvements at the library. One woman in attendance acknowledged that she was a “such a novice” with tech that she would love to see more classes and tutorials offered at the North-East Branch.
Area resident Sam Crowley suggested that the library should use any funds made available by the property tax levy increase to conduct an energy audit of the branch.
“You’re going to save money,” Crowley said.
Crowley also asked the library system to consider installing solar panels on top of the building.
“It sends a powerful message to the whole community when you see those panels,” Crowley said. “It’s the wave of the future; it truly is.”
Other suggestions included making investments in virtual reality technology, as well as installing a kiosk that offers information in multiple languages, while also answering more general questions to help people from all backgrounds better utilize the library’s resources.
From here, Glawatz and his team will begin work with the library to establish a schedule moving forward. In the meantime, he’ll be brainstorming the needs that were brought forward during the visioning session.
“Certainly the ideas that were expressed to us, and the types of spaces are not outside the realm of possibility for this project,” Glawatz said. “Our job now is to figure out, with those needs that were expressed, how can we be creative about solving those needs within the confines of a budget?”