New renovations make Lawrence public library important asset downtown

The newly renovated Lawrence public library stands on the corner of 7th and Vermont. Renovations were completed in  July.

Approved by voters in 2010, an $18 million dollar bond was approved to renovate and expand the old public library that stood on the corner of 7th and Vermont, a block West of Massachusetts Street, since 1972.

When late July of 2014 rolled around, the new building that stood on the corner was, bigger, better and more visually appealing to Lawrence citizens and students alike.

Berkleigh Wright, a Lawrence resident and University of Kansas student, was really excited to check out a new place to study.

“I was surprised by how great of an atmosphere there was there. It wasn’t just a children’s place anymore. Also, during the summer it stayed open later than the campus library,” Wright said.

Along with the excitement for a new place that business people, students, and book-lovers could go, there was also the question of an expensive expansion that would take place near three of downtown Lawrence’s bookstores, and how that could possibly affect business.


3 bookstores, along with other coffee shops, are within blocks of the newly renovated Lawrence public library

Polli Kenn, a reader’s services coordinator for two years at the Lawrence Public Library, believes that the stores and library live in symbiosis with one another, and not in competition.

“We have a really great relationship with the local bookstores, especially The Raven. We work in close proximity with them. I also think there will always be those people who want to purchase the books, and that is where the actual stores come in,” Kenn said.

According to a survey completed by 319 people in the New York City area, indeed most people still prefer to own books, rather than just checking them out at the library.

“I think bookstores are for the avid readers, and libraries are great for getting people excited about reading,” Kenn said.

Libby Reazin, a sophomore at KU, who reinforces this sentiment, says that she will often go to the public library to buy her coffee and study, but when she wants to read a book, will still go the local store and buy it.

The Raven bookstore owner, Heidi Raak, greatly emphasizes the working relationship that The Raven has always had with the public library, although the Raven did see a loss in sales in August, September and October after the renovations to the library were complete, according to Raak.

“The Raven has always given many monetary, amongst other, contributions to the library and we also partner with them for [various activities.] So, we regard the library’s refurbished digs in a very positive light,” Raak said.

Not even a block South Signs of Life, a coffee shop, art gallery, and bookstore, is also destination for book lovers, and the Dusty Bookshelf, a used book store, is also close by.

Clay Belcher, the owner of Signs of Life, also sees the perk of an impressive library nearby, and realizes the economic potential.

“I think the Library is a great addition to downtown. Anything that brings people downtown is a benefit to my business,” Belcher said. “Hopefully people see downtown as a destination for books.  In that regard having three stores in close proximity brings more customers to all of us.”

Along with the positive influence that having a good library can have on business downtown, there are also positive benefits to the locals, other than the obvious.

“For our launch, we had the man who started Frank’s North Star Tavern talk during the video about how he came up with the idea for his business in the library and how it had such a positive impact on him,” Kenn said.

The Library is open Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m., and on Sunday at 12.


Clay Belcher, Signs of Life, 785.830.8030,

Berkleigh Wright, KU student and Lawrence resident, 785-550-6672

Heidi Raak, The Raven bookstore owner,

Polli Kenn, readers services coordinator, Lawrence public library,

Libby Reazin, KU sophomore, 9139528033





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