It will be sad to see the public excluded as of Nov. 15 from what has been a Wichita Public Library site within Colvin Elementary School, also underscoring the need for City Hall to open a library branch for underserved southeast Wichita.
The Planeview Community Library at 2820 S. Roosevelt was spared from the city’s budget ax in 2003 by a public outcry. It has been the only one of the library system’s 10 locations south of Kellogg and east of the Canal Route. The loss of it as a public library branch also will end a valuable partnership between the city and school district, which similarly have scaled back their shared commitment to the school resource officers program in recent years.
Still, the school board’s 6-0 vote Monday seems prudent in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut last December. The library branch, staffed by school district employees, is housed in the middle of the large school, making it a challenge to monitor public library patrons.
“When we looked at the access-control issues and the amount of use … both the city and the school agreed that it’s time to terminate that partnership,” Terri Moses, director of security for Wichita schools, told The Eagle.
Student security obviously needs to be the school district’s priority in this case, and the change won’t affect the students’ access to the library.
It’s encouraging that public library officials plan to help those unable to reach another branch by arranging for deliveries of books and other materials to the neighborhood city hall, at least in the short term.
With just 4,315 items checked out last year from the public portion of the library, the location has stood out from the city’s library system mostly for underuse.
One factor is that the library has been open only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. It even closes on teacher in-service days, during school holiday breaks and for six weeks of the summer. A public library with such limited hours is of limited value to citizens, no matter its location. The Colvin location’s numbers may not accurately reflect the appetite for a library branch in the diverse, low-income neighborhood that is Planeview.
Building a better library for southeast Wichita has been on the wish list for a while. A library master plan in 2006 called for replacing the Planeview library in 2016 with a 5,000-square-foot branch at Pawnee and George Washington Boulevard.
More recently, City Council member James Clendenin has been working with businessman Max Cole on the idea of opening a 45,000-square-foot high-tech library and training center at Cole’s Wichita Mall, 4031 E. Harry.
An Eagle editorial applauded the “creative and can-do thinking” that rescued the Planeview library in 2003. Its closing in 2013 only makes it more urgent for city officials to bring southeast Wichita an accessible, full-service branch of its own.