Johnson County Library celebrated the grand opening of its building expansion last night with a packed house. Library director Cynthia Twing said they expected about 200 people, but had more than twice that number.
“It was an amazing turnout of people last night,” Twing said. “As I looked out over the crowd, I saw people of all ages. I thought this is exactly what this is the library is all about, serving everyone in this community. It was so heartwarming to see that level of support for our opening last night.”
Among those in attendance were State Representative Michael Madden, State Senator Dave Kinskey, Johnson County Commissioner Jim Hicks, Buffalo Mayor Mike Johnson, and Interim State Librarian Jamie Markus. The principal architect of the project, Dan Odasz, was also on hand.
“It was great to see the community come out in such numbers,” Markus said. “The library staff were just glowing. It’s a beautiful building that any community would be proud of.”
The expansion added 10,000 square feet onto the original 8,500-square-foot building. Where once the children’s area was in the middle of everything else and the young adult area was a tiny table in the corner, both age groups now have spaces dedicated to their needs. Local history has been gathered from its formerly scattered locations into one room. The new meeting room is twice the size of the old one, which held 49 people, allowing the library to accommodate larger groups.
One of the features, which was a wonderful surprise for those at the event, is a storybook wall mural located as you enter the children’s area. Painted by local artist Lisa Norman, “It’s really the crowning jewel for the project,” Twing said. “It’s beautiful artistically, and it includes so many elements of storybooks and characters. She’s hidden probably 10 or 12 different things in the picture for people to look for and find.”
In addition to the speeches, sweet treats, lemonade, and mingling, the night included live music, courtesy of local steel drum band Pan Buffalo. “They filled the building with music,” Twing said. “People were dancing and having so much fun. It was amazing.”
The library’s initial facility needs assessment was in 2008. Cynthia said that was when they first started reaching out to the community to discuss the expansion and the funding that would be required. In 2014, Johnson County voters narrowly approved a 6th penny, specific-purpose sales tax to fund $3.7 million of the $4.7 million project. Johnson County Commissioners designated their consensus funds for the remaining $1 million.