Wichita’s new Advanced Learning Library is nearing its grand opening.
The $38 million facility at Second and McLean is undergoing a few final tweaks, as staff at the current Central Branch Library a few blocks away prepares for the big move next month.
“We put some displays around the building yesterday, encouraging people to take time and share some memories," director of libraries Cynthia Berner said Friday during a media tour of the new building. “That’s basically it because we are focusing on this.”
More than two years in the making, the two-story Advanced Learning Library is focused largely on technology and innovation. It features a “maker space,” a digital technology area with shared computers and common meeting areas.
About three-quarters of the library is open to the public; only about half of the current library is publicly accessible.
Berner said the new facility is a modern library, a change from “something that’s very quiet and very passive, to something that’s very engaging.”
That’s most apparent in the children’s area, a brightly lit 10,000-square-foot room with sky-blue ceilings, fake trees, and ample reading space for kids and their parents. Berner said she’s anxious for the first group of children to use the new room.
“People are starting to realize that we are about to leave a building where a lot of people have worked for a long time," Berner said. "I’ve worked in that building since 1992, so I have some great memories there.
"But when we see this space and the fact that we have so much more to offer children, it’s so much more colorful, it’s so much more interactive, that’s really the transition that libraries have made.”
And she says the new structure at the Advanced Learning Library could influence other changes throughout the Wichita Public Library system.
“We have a lot of things in queue,” Berner said. “Once this building’s up and running, we’ve finished the close-down of the Central Library, then we’re going to put our focus on those branches.”
The Central Library closes for good May 6. Berner says they hope to open the new library about a month after, but a fixed date hasn’t been set.