Time Travel to 1953: The Library’s History Runs Deep in Shawnee

If you want to know how the Shawnee library got its start, you’ll have to travel back 65 years to a charming little school house. It was there, on June 3, 1953, that the Shawnee Volunteer Library opened in the Dunbar School at 57th Street and Reeder Road. Although the library only stayed in that location for a few years, there is something about its start in a sweet little school house that adds a layer of historical richness to the Shawnee branch.


The small school house that was the original location of the Shawnee library Source: Johnson County Library Collection on JoCoHistory.org

After early volunteer-run locations closed, Shawnee went without a library for 34 years until construction began on its current location. A staple of Shawnee’s Civic Centre and just a stone’s throw (or, perhaps, a beach ball’s toss) away from the aquatic center, the library’s unique design has been part of the community’s landscape since April 1992. Designed to look like an open book from the air, the library’s $1.4 million design was the creative vision of the Gould Evans architectural firm and was featured in the Library
Journal’s annual architectural issue the year it opened.


The Shawnee branch of the Johnson County Library Source: Johnson County Library

The Shawnee Branch has always lead library branches in technological services. It was the first branch to offer electric typewriters, and it is the only branch with “smart chutes,” a high-tech book return process that automatically scans and records returns. The branch also serves as a site for Geocaching activities (“treasure hunting” challenges that use GPS to locate hidden objects). All of these services provide a unique experience for Shawnee patrons.

Last week began the newest chapter in Johnson County Library’s service to the Shawnee community. The Monticello branch opened August 5 at 22435 W. 66th St., and is Johnson County Library’s first brand new library in almost twenty years. Opening day brought 3,038 visitors who checked out 3,737 items at our newest branch.

Johnson County Library Monticello branch

Johnson County Library Monticello branch Source: Johnson County Library

The Monticello branch follows in the footsteps of the original Shawnee branch by offering many new and original services to the Shawnee area. It is the only branch outside of our Makerspace to offer Apple computers with Photoshop software. Outdoor space is a highlight with an outdoor children’s story walk and a rooftop terrace. The terrace is an environmentally-conscious green roof equipped with comfortable seating, charging stations, and WiFi access.

We look forward to serving the community of western Shawnee and all of our patrons at the Monticello branch. Come visit!

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