History of the Oak Park Library
By the mid-1960s the 95th Street corridor was developing. Pastures and corn and soybean fields were being replaced by subdivisions and retail space. In the ten years since the Johnson County Library was founded in 1953, its population served had doubled to about 165,000. The Library needed to keep up with growth and follow the development of new neighborhoods. By 1965 planning for new and larger facilities was under way.
Planning called for a expanding the current buildings at Corinth and Antioch, and construction of two new libraries tentatively named “Northeast”, which became Cedar Roe, and “Southwest”, which became Oak Park. And not a moment too soon! Library users were complaining about overcrowding and noise, especially in the evenings. And a study found that even the combined school and public library book collections fell short of the American Library Association’s recommended volumes per capita for public libraries.
A bond election to finance the plan at a cost of $1,501,000 was approved by the voters on February 11, 1967. Almost immediately more detailed planning for the Southwest Branch started. The cramped library in downtown Lenexa was closed, and a temporary Cherokee Branch opened in the new shopping center at 95th and Antioch.
The J.C. Nichols Company offered to donate a site at 95th and Bluejacket for a permanent structure and the Johnson County Library gratefully accepted. The new library, now called Oak Park, after the subdivision to its south, opened on November 3, 1970. The formal dedication occurred on February 7, 1971. The Cherokee Library was closed. The 1970 US Census showed the Library now served 200,000 persons. Retail development continued west of the new library with the Oak Park Mall opening in 1974.
By the late 1970s it was realized that continued county growth required further expansion. The original 10,000 square foot facility at Oak Park was insufficient to serve its community. Due to its central location it was hoped that an Oak Park expansion could become a main or central library. This proved impractical and an additional 6,200 square foot branch expansion was planned. The Johnson County Board of County Commissions authorized the sale of bonds this purpose and the expanded Oak Park opened in the autumn of 1982.
In 1985 the Johnson County Library and Project Finish at the Johnson County Community College opened the Breyfogle Reading Center at Oak Park. Its purpose was to help adults improve their reading skill. It was funded by a bequest from the estate of George and Dorothy Breyfogle. Today this service continues as Johnson County Adult Education retaining its original adult literacy mission, and adding GED and English-as-a-second-language services.
The Oak Park Library has received several updates since its expansion including interior remodeling, adding a meeting room, and upgrading handicapped access. In 2008 with the implementation of the strategic plan Experience Johnson County Library, Oak Park was designated as the base for implementing a more effective and responsive service to the Hispanic community and other immigrant populations. Oak Park has a Spanish language collection and members of the staff have full or some fluency in Spanish.
By the numbers (2009)
Items circulated: 459,543
Collection total items: 105,903
Number of programs: 403
Staff full-time equivalents: 14.6
Square footage: 17,569