At 53 years old, Cedar Roe Remains Treasured Neighborhood Branch

The Cedar Roe branch of Johnson County Library opened June 2, 1969, so it marks its 53rd year in 2022. It remains a cherished branch serving northeast Johnson County residents, plus patrons who come from Wyandotte County and even Kansas City.

“What’s special about Cedar Roe is it’s so integrated into the neighborhood,” said Assistant Branch Manager Megan Clark. “A lot of our locations are more visible off the street. This one, it’s kind of like a secret.”

Located at 5120 Cedar St. in Roeland Park, it’s tucked behind a Walmart shopping center. Patrons drive and even walk from close-in neighborhoods. The branch caters to long-time residents, young families, and home schoolers.

“We get a lot of regulars here,” Clark said. “In the smaller branches you get to know some of your patrons. You see them more frequently and it’s just a smaller setting so that’s kind of a fun thing.”

In recent years, the building has had important capital improvements, including a new roof, new HVAC system, and all new shelving.

“It’s amazing how much more natural light comes in. It brightened the place up,” Clark said. “Patrons have responded really positively to those upgrades.”

The Library was closed for several months in 2021 for those improvements. New curbside pickup service allowed patrons to retrieve holds during that time and has remained a popular convenience.

The Library also recently purchased new furniture for the 6 by 6 Ready to Read children’s area, thanks to a generous legacy donation from James Deberry, a lawyer and long-time Library patron who died in June 2020 at age 87.

Youth Services Librarian Mary Beth Ricks said the bequest was much appreciated and really helped spruce up the children’s area.

“It’s comfy seating, but it’s very stable for kids climbing on,” she observed. “We had mis-matched tables and chairs before. Now everything is colorful and matches.”

A painting of Cedar Roe that staff found in an upstairs storage area has been framed and is now prominently displayed, to celebrate the Library’s reopening and the Deberry bequest.

Cedar Roe was part of a 1960s system-wide expansion. Johnson County Library had started in 1952 and by 1965 consisted of the Antioch headquarters, Corinth, Mission, Lenexa and Gardner. As the population grew, those branches became over-crowded. In February 1967, voters approved an expansion plan with 69% in support.

That $1.5 million plan called for expanding Antioch and Corinth, while a new “Northeast” branch would replace Mission and a “Southwest” branch would replace Lenexa.

The “Northeast” branch site was selected just west of Roe Avenue on Cedar Street. A naming contest was held, and “Cedar Roe” was chosen.

Total cost of the land and construction on the 17,000-square-foot building was $470,950. It opened in June 1969 and the official dedication took place Nov. 16, 1969. In 1970, Cedar Roe received the Excellence in Design Medal from the Kansas City Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture. With a pleasing mixture of wood, brick and large banks of windows, its interior remains one of the most attractive Library facilities.

The building will close for a few weeks this summer for some ADA-compliant improvements to the front walkway, new LED lighting and other cosmetic changes.

Staff hopes to see some programming resume later this year.

“We’re kind of getting back into what might be the new normal,” Clark said. “We’re discussing bringing back some programming. That will help us bring foot traffic in a new and different way.”