The Butterfly Garden and the Lawrence Public Library
| 2014 Q3 | story by KATHERINE DIAZ | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
On July 26, the Lawrence Public Library opened its doors to a new beginning. On the big day, eager visitors participated in a book relay by forming a human chain from the temporary location on New Hampshire to the library’s new location on Vermont Street, where a crowd of spectators awaited. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, weaved its way down the human chain, participants handing the book to one another so it could make it to its destination: the library. The arrival of the book initiated the grand opening and led to the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“We sent the call out the morning before the opening, and by the next day 200 people had signed up to participate [in the book relay],” said Brad Allen, Director of the Lawrence Public Library.
There were approximately 12,000 people in attendance for the grand opening, according to Allen. Since then, more than 100,000 individuals have been in the building. The response from the community about the new library has been a positive one, as people are pleased to have it finally open. Compared to its former building, this new library made improvements based on what the community wanted, and the renovations sought to accommodate those wishes.
“We initially asked the community what they wanted in the new library, and there were three primary requests,” Allen said. “First, was meeting space. We now have three meeting rooms, five study rooms and an auditorium that holds 90 people. The next two were bigger children’s area and upgraded technology.”
According to Allen, the second request to have more children’s space has now doubled in size, and new additions include a readers theater and an activity area. Kids are among the library’s biggest fans, and the expanded children’s area creates an intimate space for them to play, read, learn and be with their family.
“Lawrence is a town with young families and being able to serve these families is really exciting for us at the library,” Allen said. “It’s just a great place for families to come and enjoy themselves for free.”
Lastly, the library fulfilled the community’s final request and upgraded its computer systems.
“We have added state-of-the-art technology systems now,” Allen said. “We have an array of computer systems including a sound and vision studio, graphic design programs, full recording studio and we are currently working on the specs for the video production room.”
The upgraded technology equipment provides in-depth, hands-on experience for individuals interested in these fields. It also provides college students the opportunity to further explore their skills with the free use of these computers and programs.
“We are looking forward to have the studio up and running within this next year,” Allen said. “People will be able to go in there and capture and record sound and visuals using state-of-the-art equipment.”
In addition to the new studio, Allen stated that the library is also looking forward to featuring a health spot in 2015. This health center is a co-partnership with Lawrence Memorial Hospital, adding more useful resources for the library’s visitors. The health spot, according to Allen, was a grant given by the Kansas Health Foundation.
“We’re just really excited to be enhancing our services and being able to provide much more to our community,” Allen said.
Another up-and-coming project the library is working on is its Reader Services division. This project involves accurately training individuals to aid people who are looking to find their next great book, according to Allen. The individuals working at Reader Services will be trained to have higher knowledge on books to be able to connect people to the next great read. These projects are what Allen states are overall great investments. He also believes that the library itself was a smart investment that the city approved.
“I’m really proud of the people who ponied up the money and set aside the funds for this new library because it benefits everyone in the community,” Allen said. “This is a really nice public space and it really adds character to downtown. It’s just a nice place for people to be.”
The library is simply another reason for people to visit downtown. Allen also emphasized his desire for the library to be a flagship on Vermont Street and getting more people to discover other shops and restaurants besides Massachusetts Street. The city also recently approved the construction of a new ice skating rink next to the library, and Allen is thrilled to see what great things will come out of this project.
“Like I said, I’m excited to see the Vermont corridor come up to light,” Allen said. “It’s a fun experiment. I can imagine, once the rink is built, our visitors drinking coffee and sitting near the windows overlooking the area. It’s a nice visual to think about and to look forward to.”
When asked about the library’s ultimate goal, Allen replied by saying that libraries are focused on so many things that it’s difficult to see the main goal. However, he does have one goal in mind that he attempts to achieve on a daily basis.
“For me, personally, the goal is for the library to instill hope in people’s lives,” Allen said. “Hope is what makes the community more positive and when you have hope, you see a better future.” ■