Libraries are wonderful places.

Go to a library – in person or online – and the world of information is yours.

Books, periodicals, movies, audio tapes, computers, program materials are readily available. The library is a space and place where the community, from children to seniors, can gather for learning, entertainment and knowledge.

So when many libraries are closing, cutting programs and staff, it is good news that the Mid-Continent Public Library North Independence Branch will undergo a $3.75 million major renovation that will make it a “destination library” within Mid-Continent’s three-county, 30-branch library system.

Remodeling begins this fall. It will take 12 to 14 months and will create a dramatically different library space and experience. The library will be brighter, lighter, more inviting and more comfortable.

There will be public meeting rooms, more computers, separate children and young adult areas (the former genealogy library space) and a small food service area. The remodeled project will include the former genealogy library and the basement – more than 52,000 total square feet.

The North Independence Branch is a busy place. It has the fourth highest circulation in the system but has one of the largest book collections and houses the central reference library service for the entire system. This year, North Independence will circulate more than a half million items. More than 6,100 children participate in the popular summer reading program, and there are more than 125 programs for the public.

New investments in North Independence follow larger systemwide improvements in library services, including wireless computer access, self-checkout, audio books and expanded programming.

This is the second major Mid-Continent investment in Independence in as many years. Last summer saw the opening of the library’s Midwest Genealogy Center on Lee’s Summit Road. 

Total cost for the two library projects is more than $12 million – all completed without a tax increase. Sound fiscal management has resulted in accumulated library reserves that will pay for the project.

Some will recall that North Independence occupies a former grocery store. This remodeling project will create a vibrant and vital community place providing an emporium offering food for thought and even more.

There is no place in our community where anyone can spend so little and learn so much. That is what makes libraries so truly special.

Brent Schondelmeyer is a Mid-Continent Public Library trustee. He lives in Independence and regularly frequents the North Independence Branch.