Patron Finds Library Spaces Soothing, Comforting

Kelly Farrar is a Community Support Specialist at Swope Health in Kansas City, serving as a caseworker for clients dealing with persistent mental health challenges. She assists adults in locating affordable housing, supports them during doctors’ appointments and provides other essential social service help.

But when she leaves the office to go pick up her 9-year-old daughter Clare from elementary school in De Soto, she finds the nearby Monticello branch of Johnson County Library to be a great space to relax, recharge and continue working in a beautiful setting.

“I’m in the Monticello branch once or twice a week,” she said. “I posted on Facebook, thanking them for the space. It’s very friendly. I wanted Library staff to know how much I appreciated it.”

The Monticello branch, located at 22435 W. 66th St. in Shawnee, opened in August 2018. It was the first new Johnson County Library branch built since 1994, to serve the county’s fast-growing western sector. The two-story, 30,500-square-foot building features floor-to-ceiling glass along three sides, filling the building with natural light. It was designed to be a 21st century Library, with vibrant color throughout and a diverse choice of cozy and cheerful seating areas.

Johnson County Library aims to provide attractive community spaces, and most branches have been updated in recent years with new seating and modern ergonomic furniture designed for comfort and tranquility.

That’s what’s been so appealing to Farrar. She had seen the Monticello branch from Shawnee Mission Parkway. She finally decided to stop in for a visit on the way to picking up her daughter earlier this school year.

Farrar has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). So when she entered the Library, she immediately found the décor and layout to be appealing.

“The fact that there’s multiple different seating arrangements,” she observed. “Not just the standard table and four chairs. When I walked in there and saw all these ADHD chairs I was so excited. I focus really well there too.”

Now, after she finishes with clients at her office and heads to De Soto, she frequently takes a break at Monticello. “I change where I sit every week,” she said. “I bring my work and I work on my clinical notes.”

Farrar has also started bringing Clare to Monticello after school, on their way home. “When my daughter is there with me at the Library I know she is safe and she will be occupied,” Farrar said.

Clare does her homework but also likes playing Roblox on the Library computers or just reading a book. She enjoys the “Captain Underpants” graphic novel series and is starting to read books featuring Percy Jackson.

One day after Clare’s school Halloween party, they stopped by the Library. Clare was still dressed as Link from the Legend of Zelda, and was delighted to find a Monticello staff member also dressed as Link that day. It was a happy coincidence and Clare and the staff member bonded over their costumes.

“She never says, ‘Can we go now?’” Farrar said, noting that her daughter enjoys hanging out at the branch as long as possible. “The staff have all been very friendly.”

Farrar enjoys her work and her Swope Health clients and feels gratified to provide vital services to people needing mental health support. During her commute, she has discovered that Johnson County Library’s relaxing Monticello branch is a haven to strengthen her own mental health, making her and Clare feel welcomed.

“It’s just a fun, safe place, where Clare and I can hang out,” Farrar said, “and be productive at the same time.”