Refreshed Trails West library branch open again

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

With a new look inside, the Trails West Branch of the Kansas City Public Library in western Independence has reopened. 

The library, 11401 E. 23rd St., was closed for about three weeks for several upgrades: new carpet, rearranged and lowered shelving and furniture and plenty of new additions to the branch’s book, magazine and audio collections – a short-term project planned after voters approved a library levy increase in November 2018. 

The Trails West branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 11401 E. 23rd St. in independence, has a new, more open look. The tent at left is for the summer reading program,

Call it a “refresh,” branch manager Ruth Stephens said. A full renovation will happen eventually, but there’s no timeline yet, she said, as some other KC Public Library branches are ahead in line. 

Normal hours have resumed: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.  

The library changed the direction of shelving, so patrons entering from either side will look down the aisles, instead of across the front-facing ones. That, and arranging patron tables and chairs to have more space in between, presents a more open layout. In those public spaces, there are more outlets for patrons’ electric devices 

“That’s the thing they all say when they come in – they love the openness,” Stephens said. “The idea is when you come into the new space, it’s like a boulevard.” 

For the “Homegrown Stories” summer reading program throughout the library system, the branch has a nifty tent with reading selections set up in the middle of the public area. Participants, adults and children alike, can register online at www.kclibrary.org, and those who read five books can receive a free drinking mug and book. 

There are still a couple of matters of public health precaution. The branch’s community rooms are not yet available for public use, and in-person programs have not yet resumed. Face masks are required. 

But the branch still hands out Kids Cafe to-go meals 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays, normal indoor holds and technology services are available and people needing a new or renewed passport can apply inside. 

Spurred in part by the pandemic, when just about any service had to shift online, the library maintains a robust digital branch available 24/7, with eBooks, audiobooks, music and movies for streaming, learning apps and digital news and databases. 

“We’ve always had a high digital use here, because we’ve pushed it,” said Stephens, who also manages the library’s Sugar Creek Branch, “but it’s definitely gone up – here and Sugar Creek.” 

“I don’t think that’s unique to Trails West. Libraries all over are experiencing it.”