Voters will decide in November whether or not to pass Proposition L, a plan that aims to build or renovate library branches across the metro area.
According to the plan, an 8-cent property tax increase would help fund an $86 million capital improvement plan that would impact the Mid-Continent Public Library system in Jackson County, Clay County and Platte County.
If the plan is approved by voters, on average, yearly property taxes would increase around $22 for residents in the affected counties.
Mid-Continent Public Library Director and CEO Steven Potter said the increase in property taxes is needed as the library system meets growing demand.
"The number of people who visited the library last year would have filled Kauffman Stadium 99 times," he explained.
Potter said libraries in the metro area are dealing with expanding formats, which can lead to challenges.
"Now when a book comes out, I buy the book, the large print book, the audiobook. I've got to buy the audiobook on CD, the downloadable version, the downloadable book and then the option for a movie," he explained.
Liberty branch in need of repairs
Across the metro area, Proposition L would renovate or rebuild around 30 Mid-Continent Public Library branches, including the Liberty branch.
On Thursday, Potter showed some of the issues the Liberty branch is dealing with.
After initially being built as a warehouse, the Liberty branch has worked through design challenges. The area for child services and programs, which can be loud at times, is just down a hall connecting to a quiet area for adults and teens.
The design of the Liberty branch drew 17-year-old Jasmine Hackett away from the library.
"Sometimes it's kind of difficult because they're so close together," said Hackett, who used to study for school exams at the library. "Kids are kids, and they're not always going to be quiet."
The Liberty branch is also dealing with some structural issues. During a tour of the facility on Thursday, Potter showed off a large crack on a corner wall.
"This is a good example of where the building is beginning to fail us," said Potter, while pointing at the wall crack. "This is where we're beginning to see the age of the building work against us."
— Tom Dempsey (@KCTomDempsey) July 15, 2016
According to the library system, if Proposition L does not pass, not only would aging buildings potentially get worse, but branch hours and staff could be cut.
Potter said that if Proposition L passes, the library system would work to expand services.
Currently, the Mid-Continent Public Library offers early and summer reading programs, as well as small business outreach programs.
Potter said the growing demand at libraries for resources and programs shows the importance of extra funding for the facilities.
"A lot of people want to throw shovels of dirt on the library, but we're more relevant today and more people are using us today than almost any point in our history," he said.
Support for Prop L
Proposition L has already gotten the support of people like Tonya Schmidt. On Thursday, Schmidt's two children took part in a summer library program at the Liberty branch.
Schmidt explained that having programs available at the library is a big help to her family.
"It's extremely important just to have an option for the kids for education purposes and for socializing," she said.
Proposition L will be on the ballot for Jackson County, Clay County, and Platte County voters on Nov. 8.
Which library branches would be affected?
Below is a list of Mid-Continent Public Library branches that could see renovations or a possible new facility:
New branch/replacement branch:
- Boardwalk Branch
- Grain Valley Branch
- Liberty Branch
- North Oak Branch
- New East Lee's Summit Branch
- New East Independence Branch
- Antioch Branch (moderate)
- Blue Ridge Branch (moderate)
- Blue Springs North Branch (moderate)
- Blue Springs South Branch (moderate)
- Buckner Branch (minor)
- Camden Point Branch (minor)
- Claycomo Branch (minor)
- Colbern Road Branch (complete)
- Dearborn Branch (minor)
- Edgerton Branch (minor)
- Excelsior Springs Branch (minor)
- Grandview Branch (moderate)
- Kearney Branch (moderate)
- Lee's Summit Branch (complete)
- Lone Jack Branch (moderate)
- North Independence Branch (minor)
- Oak Grove Branch (minor)
- Parkville Branch (minor)
- Platte City Branch (minor)
- Raytown Branch (moderate)
- Red Bridge Branch (moderate)
- Riverside Branch (moderate)
- South Independence Branch (moderate)
- Weston Branch (minor)
Tom Dempsey can be reached at Tom.Dempsey@KSHB.com.