On Friday, July 14, Johnson County Library is celebrating its selection as the Wyoming Library Association’s Outstanding Library for 2017. Katrina Brown, WLA Vice President, will present the award. The event will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the large meeting room at the library in Buffalo, 171 N. Adams. All are invited, and refreshments will be served.
WLA gives this award for a significant special project completed within the last two years. The staff, library board, and the community or people served must all be involved in the work for which recognition is sought.
In Johnson County Library’s case, it was the library’s renovation and expansion, a $4.79 million project that added 10,000 square feet onto the original 8,500-square-foot building, allowing for dedicated children’s and young adult spaces, a local history room, and a meeting room twice the size of the old one. It was paid for with $3.79 million in specific purpose sales tax revenue and $1 million in county funds.
It was a long journey. The initial needs assessment was done in 2008, paid for with a Carol McMurry Library Endowment grant. In 2014, the Johnson County Commissioners urged the library to go to the voters for a 1% specific purpose tax. Despite the fact that Johnson County voters have historically voted every proposed project of this type down, the library took the brave step of putting it on the ballot. After a vigorous campaign, the library expansion project passed with fewer than 200 votes.
The new building has exceeded every expectation. Perhaps its crowning jewel is the storybook wall mural located at the entrance of the children’s area. Painted by local artist Lisa Norman, it brings in numerous elements of well-loved books and characters. The artist even hid a few things in the work for patrons to find.
The expanded library opened in June of 2016, thanks to the hundreds of people involved in the project’s success: county officials, the library trustees and foundation, Friends of the Library, high school students, and many others. It was truly a community effort.