The new Joplin Public Library is not a hard place to find.
It's "at the center of it all."
That is the new library's slogan and refers not only to its location in the middle of the city at 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue but its role in the community as a place for learning, entertainment, leisure and now as a multimedia hub.
Library visitors will have access to all kinds of technology, art displays and places to meet as well as spend time indoors and out. Whether it's a good book before the fireplace in the Post Art Reference Library or a child's niche inside a round, red window, there are all sizes and kinds of places and spaces.
"One addition we have in this place that we do not have at all in the old place is maker spaces," Library Director Jacque Gage said on Thursday while workers were busy finishing construction details and building shelves for the new building at 1901 E. 20th St. "We will have an adult maker space and a teen maker space."
Those spaces will allow patrons to use equipment to do 3-D scanning, 3-D printing, laser etching, laser engraving and laser cutting, as well as digital media conversion.
"You can bring in stacks of photos and digitize them, or digitize your old VHS tapes," as well as cassettes, Gage said.
Teens can put their engineering skills to work on the Lego wall, which allows budding engineers to sculpt projects using the wall as a base.
There also are puzzles to tease the minds of patrons old and young.
One of those is trying to determine the source for curvy shapes found in a couple of special ceiling treatments. That will keep you guessing.
Another is to figure out words spelled from letters on the etched glass windows of some of the meeting rooms. There also are large letters on the windows that, when put together, spell a secret word — if you can figure it out.
A popular space in the library, the Children's Library, has several unusual seating areas as well as a separate reading and projects room. Visitors can spend some time identifying the titles of about 20 favorite children's books from images in a 3-D wall mural that hint at the answers.
An existing feature at the current library, the Post Library, gets a whole new feel with modern decor and a leisure area equipped with an electronic fireplace. Gone are the antiques that furnished the room at the existing library.
The new Post space will host art displays. There also is art gallery space leading into the library's new large meeting room, which can hold up to 200 or be divided for two smaller groups.
Those who wish to use any of the variously sized meeting spaces will be able to book reservations online when the new library is open and all of its computerized operations are up and running, Gage said.
The main change is that the new library is about 65 percent larger overall than the existing one at 300 S. Main St. Square footage will go from 35,000 to 57,800.
"Most of the services will remain fairly similar," Gage said. "It's accessibility that's going to make the huge difference."
In the existing building, built in 1980, a decade before the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect, the book shelves were about 30 inches apart. "A wheelchair can't get down those aisles," Gage said. "Aisles here are 42 inches apart," which is recommended for disability access.
"I think you will find it more accessible because at the old library, shelves are 76 inches tall, and in the new building no adult shelf is taller than 66 inches. You are going to have a much more airy feeling in the library and the materials even on the top shelf are going to be more accessible for those with limitations."
That was one of the main purposes of building a new library.
"Our library was not ADA-compliant," Gage said. "It could not be modified to the point where it could be. It could not be expanded outward. It could not be expanded upward."
The idea for a new library was made to the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team when suggestions were collected for changing the city as part of the recovery after the Joplin tornado.
"(Back then we said) if we are reimagining Joplin, let's not forget what the library does for the community and that we are facing these issues and let's just keep it on the radar," Gage said. "Then when the city was able to apply for a grant that encompassed the library, we cooperated with them."
A grant of $20 million was awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build the new library and for infrastructure work within the tornado zone. The city had to match that funding with $5 million, which was done by providing about 6 acres of land and about $4.5 million obtained from bonds sold on the city's Recovery Tax Increment Financing District.
Asked how she feels now that the new space is being prepared to occupy, Gage said, "it hasn't sunk in yet because I'm still so caught up in the day-to-day things that have to done. I haven't had time to sit back and reflect yet."
The existing library will close for good on Sunday. The new library will open informally on May 30, with a grand opening celebration planned for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 3.