The Central Reference Department was established at the Headquarters Branch of the Johnson County Library in 1968. In 1970 the Kansas Room opened providing reference assistance in Local History and Genealogy. In 1973 the Johnson County Genealogical Society agreed to house its collection in the Kansas Room, growing the collections and the range of service offered at the Headquarters Branch. In 1976, a business specialist was added to the Reference department. Online resources also reached the Johnson County Library in 1976 and the Library became a depository for Kansas and federal government documents in 1977. In 1979, The Headquarters branch and the Central Reference Department were merged into a Resource Library, designed to provide access to specialized reference and advanced research collections.
Building a New Central Library:
In 1985 under the direction of County Librarian Roy Fox, preliminary planning began for a larger building. The Resource Library was renamed the Central Resource Library and Fox began negotiations to construct a new building at College Boulevard and Quivira on property owned by Johnson County Community College. Roy Fox retired in 1988 and newly appointed County Librarian Mona Carmack hired Gould Evans Architects, Inc. of Lawrence, KS to design a Central Resource Library building for the JCCC location.
Negotiations for the site soon faltered and a new site at College Boulevard and US-69 was selected. Negotiations were once again slow going and in 1992, were re-directed towards a location at 9875 W. 87th St. in the former Best Products retail building. On November 3, 1992, a $12 million bond issue for the purchase and renovation of the Best Products building was passed by 72% of county voters (100,475 – 39,928). Gould Evans Architects, INC. developed the plans for the renovation, the building was purchased in 1993 and the groundbreaking occurred in 1994.
The Relocation and Opening:
Hallett and Sons Expert Movers of Chicago and Seaton Van Lines of Olathe were chosen to move collections and office space from the Antioch location to the new library at 87th and Farley. Antioch closed its doors in early August and the move was carried out from August 11th - 17th. August 29, 1995, the Central Resource Library opened its doors to the public. The final cost for the Central Resource Library was $12,719,000, funded by 12 million from the bond, $450,000 of allocated funds, and $269,000 in interest income. Building renovation costs were $2 million less than previous ground-up construction plans.
Housing over 500,000 materials, the Library constituted the bulk of the Johnson County Library’s nearly 750,000 materials. Many behind-the-scenes departments, including Administration, the Business Office, Technical Services, Collections, Acquisitions, and Library Information Technology joined public service staff in the new building. The building featured a 100 person meeting room, 6 smaller study rooms, 395 parking spaces, 67 infoCat terminals and 6 public computers.
750 people visited the building in the first 4 hours opening day. In its first month, an average of 1000 people a day visited the new facility asking nearly 1,110 reference questions. Opening day circulation shattered previous records when 7,396 items circulated. The highest number prior was a 5,439 record established at Antioch on July 6, 1993. Statistics reported 75% more user visits, 34% more circulations and library card registrations increased by 165% with the opening of the new facility.
Today’s Central Resource Library:
Since its opening, the Central Resource Library has continued to be re-envisioned by Library staff. Since 1995, it’s seen the creation of an art gallery, a teen services space, and the addition of more than 100 public use PCs. In 2008 the large meeting room was named the Carmack Room in honor of the Johnson County Library’s fourth County Librarian Mona Carmack. Even with all these changes, specialized librarians continue to provide the same expert services they did in 1968 and the Library continues to collect core materials in support of Local History, Genealogy research. Today’s specialized librarians give career tours, provide readers advisory, and promote access to information through digital resources such as those found on www.jocohistory.org.
By the numbers (2012)
Items circulated: 899,939
Collection total items: 290,655
Number of programs: 316
Staff full-time equivalents: 49.93
Square footage: 92,000