Library Staff Prepare to Say Goodbye to Antioch

Since starting as leased space nearly 70 years ago, the Antioch Library has been expanded twice, renovated extensively three decades ago, and served as system headquarters until the Central Resource Library opened in 1995.

In addition to serving generations of Library patrons, Antioch also housed classes for Johnson County Community College’s adult education program until it moved into a separate space along 87th Street.

On January 28, Antioch will close for good in preparation for the opening of the new Merriam Plaza Library this spring. Staff hold many fond memories of the location, starting with the maze of corridors and offices created through its history of renovations.

“It’s still really nostalgic to walk through the different parts of the building and imagine what they used to be,” said Branch Manager Amy Barclay. The vacant upstairs office space is eerie, she said, and office lore has it that a shy, friendly ghost frequents the premises (and may stick around when everyone else moves to Merriam Plaza).

When Barclay took over as branch manager two years ago, it was a homecoming for her. She started her library career in 2011 as a page at Antioch while working on her master’s degree in library science.

Antioch was also the launching pad for County Librarian Tricia Suellentrop, who officed at Antioch in her first professional job as a teen services librarian. She remembered having trouble finding her way out of the building through the byzantine back office after her first day of work.

Suellentrop also remembered the work environment as a “wonderful example of collaboration” because it served many different functions. It was a unique experience for her first job, she said, because it gave her a window into so many aspects of the system.

One of the fondest memories staff will take from their experience at Antioch is the connection the community has with a building that, as Suellentrop said, made so many “deep grooves in their lives.”

“Everybody just loves this branch,” said Assistant Branch Manager Sheida Bates, “and the people who grew up coming to the branch are now bringing their kids here.”

Patrons reminisce a lot about attending story times throughout the years, Bates said.

With the upcoming move to Merriam Plaza, Antioch staff has been encouraging patrons to record their memories on comment cards. Bates said they now have a few hundred cards that a staff member has digitally scanned.

One story that staff loved came from a man who met his future wife at Antioch, Bates said.

Through the years, Suellentrop has also encountered staff and patrons who remembered the great reading nooks at Antioch and an old clawfoot bathtub that at one time provided a reading spot as well.

Antioch patrons got an opportunity to put their stamp on Merriam Plaza when the builder provided sheets of drywall for them to sign, which were then installed in meeting room of the new Library (with the signatures on the back of the drywall).

Even with all the nostalgia for Antioch, Merriam Plaza will offer increased convenience with a drive-up window and a more pleasant space featuring a lot of natural light.

“It's always sad to say goodbye,” Barclay said, “but it’s exciting to have something new that will meet many more needs for the community.”