The City of Grain Valley recently sold a portion of the Sni-A-Bar Farms property to the Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) for the construction of a new branch. MCPL Library Director and CEO Steven V. Potter, who recently announced his retirement after 34 years of service, said the design work is well underway.
“We’ve been working with architects and engineers for several months, and we’ve worked on core borings out at the site,” Potter said.
According to Potter, the new branch will be double the size of their current space on Eagles Parkway, and will feature a larger programming room, two collaboration rooms, a drive up window, and easy access to walking trails. Construction will likely begin this fall, with a tentative opening fall 2023.
“It is going to be really handy for people to walk or bike or visit the branch. We’re building it in such a way that if we have to expand it 10-15 years down the line, we have the space to do so easily,” Potter said.
Voters approved Proposition L in 2016, which increased the library’s funding for the first time in more than three decades. A Capital Improvement Plan kicked off in 2018 and is almost complete, with the majority of branches in the system either renovated or replaced, including the new branch planned for Grain Valley.
The changes to the physical buildings of the library system are just one of the many changes Potter has led throughout his tenure with MCPL. Potter said the number one issue that necessitated the changes in the library system’s physical spaces is technology.
“You’d walk into one of our buildings in 2016, stand in the middle of the building and see a total of four outlets. And those outlets were put there so there would be a place to plug in the vacuum. There was no perception when I started in 1988 that we would have computers all over the place or need places for patrons to plug in their devices or phones.”
“The number one issue in the industry is technology and the influence of digital information on libraries. There are so many examples to show how we have seen big changes because of this. For instance, we bought the historic Times of London archive. This is a wonderful resource for our genealogy collection. Before this information was available digitally, this would have meant drawers and drawers of microfilm, readers, printers, and on and on.”
Potter reminisced on the quieter times before computers, from when he started his career with MCPL in 1988 to the mid-90’s when computers began to quickly infiltrate every corner of our lives.
“Since 1995, we’ve been drinking from the fire hose. The wonderful thing is that we have a staff that sees these changes as opportunities and not threats,” Potter said.
“We used to have 200 linear feet of library shelving dedicated to encyclopedias. Back in the day, we used to buy 1000-1250 copies of Harry Potter. Now what do you with all the extra space? We’ve been able to be much more flexible with our spaces, offering new services, expanding our collaboration rooms and event spaces.”
Asked what he plans to do when he retires at the end of the fiscal year this summer, Potter was quick to say, “Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!”.
“My mom had a home based business growing up. I started working in her business at about 8 years old,” Potter said.
“Then I got my first job out of the house and realized I’d get paid. From then on, I never stopped working. I’d take 2 week vacations, but this will be the first time in a very long time that I plan to do absolutely nothing.”
“It will be nice and warm; I’ll take walks in the neighborhood,” Potter said. “Who knows, I may get bored.”
A recently retired friend of Potter’s counseled him to do nothing for six months before jumping into anything else. “I’ll give it six months, and then see what else I might do to serve,” Potter said.