Merriam’s Green Roof Inspires Learning and Programming

One of the amazing features of the new Merriam Plaza Library, now under construction, will be a “green” roof. It’s an environmental innovation that preserves the roof’s lifespan while providing a vibrant native habitat. 

The Merriam branch, 6120 Slater St., will open in 2024, replacing the Antioch branch at 8700 Shawnee Mission Pkwy. Antioch staffers anticipate having a wonderful new space for learning and enrichment. The green roof can be seen from the street and from atop the adjacent parking garage, allowing visitors to experience a prairie landscape changing throughout the year.

“There are a wide variety of native grasses, wildflowers and other species that will really kind of shift and change from season to season,” said Dan Maginn, director of the Kansas City office of Dake Wells Architecture, which designed the building. “Libraries are places where transformation happens. The idea that the building and the landscape itself can transform was really interesting to us.”

Maginn said it’s been great working with Johnson County Library administrators, who challenged the architects to create something unique to the site. Dake Wells collaborated with Confluence, a Kansas City landscape architecture firm, to design a setting welcoming for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

“It’ll be a little wild,” Maginn said. “It’s not a golf course. It’s really meant to be kind of a native, shaggy environment that’s got a lot of life and change.”  

Antioch staffers saw the green roof as a catalyst for programming even before the new building opens.  

On April 18, Antioch hosts a class on pollinators from 4-5 p.m. The same program will be offered April 25 from 2-3 p.m. at Gardner. This workshop, presented by Johnson County Master Gardeners, focuses on bees, butterflies and bats and their environmental impact. 

Youth Librarian Christi Haines was eager to bring this program to Antioch, especially because of its relevance to the green roof.  

“Back in the fall, when we were looking at what we would do in the spring, this was one of the program possibilities that the programming team came up with,” Haines said. “When I heard that was a programming option, I felt like we really ought to get it since we were going to have a green roof.” 

Youth Information Specialist Heather Miller said other programming also has an environmental motivation. Last October, Antioch hosted a “book swap” in which teens exchanged gently used books at the Library.  

“We created the logo “Reduce, Reuse, Read” so teens could come in and swap out their old books and get a refresh for their book shelves,” Miller explained. “It was bringing in that sustainability element.” 

Miller is encouraging other Library staff to consider an adult and family/kids swap, especially after the Merriam branch opens. 

Libraries are examples of sustainability and responsible materials reuse, said Youth Information Specialist Grace Bentley, who specializes in working with young children.  

“The Library in general is a green enterprise,” Bentley pointed out. “Young kids go through books really quickly.” She reminds parents that rather than buying dozens of books, they can check them out from the Library and return them for others to enjoy.  

Miller looks forward to offering innovative science-oriented programming in the Merriam branch that will emphasize fascinating aspects of the natural world. 

A scale model of the new branch is displayed at Antioch, getting lots of attention from kids. “I think it’s going to be really great to talk to kids about what they are seeing on the roof, tracking those changes, making sure they notice what’s happening,” Bentley said. “It will be another big draw and a point of interest for our families.”