Library seeks to add outdoor learning space | Derby News


While breaking down the past year in his annual report at the February 8 council meeting, Derby Public Library manager Eric Gustafson also looked slightly to the future – telling Derby City Council efforts to add outdoor learning space to the library.

“For years, the library has wanted to develop the outdoor spaces into a usable picnic and programming space,” Gustafson said. “We’ve had ideas in the past, but nothing ever really took off.”

In late 2020, Gustafson said he brought a concrete idea to the library board to add a shelter, picnic tables, and a literacy/music play area (similar to Wichita’s Botanica) and council members encouraged making it a fully-fledged interactive outdoor space. .

To do this, Gustafson enlisted help from the Derby Public Works Department to find a design firm to create potential plans. In 2021, professional engineering consultants were recruited to help brainstorm conceptual designs and generate a project estimate. With that estimate coming in at around $400,000, the library was at a crossroads – either cut from the project or found another source of funding.

During the Feb. 8 report, Gustafson noted that the library is currently seeking a grant through the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is a matching grant that would provide a big boost. In the current state of the project – including a water feature with a play area with retractable fountain, grass, 10 large outdoor instruments (i.e. chimes, drums, etc.), cabanas picnic area and a performance area – the library is considering a tag price of $750,000, approx.

“The concept of musical instruments and picnic tables that I would love to do no matter what. I feel like those things have to be there,” Gustafson said. “If we can get this grant, we will consider full completion of the project.”

The outdoor learning space planned by the library is intended to feature a musical literacy zone with chimes, drums and other instruments for children to play – similar to what exists at Botanica in Wichita.

Gustafson said the library should be aware of the grant by late spring (April/May), with hopes of potentially starting construction in the summer – and possibly being completed by spring 2023. later.

With the Land and Water Conservation Fund providing matching grants, the library would still have to pay $300,000 to $350,000 for the entire project. As such, Gustafson said the library will seek additional and smaller grants — as well as private and/or corporate sponsorships — to help raise these funds.

Currently, outdoor learning space is expected to be added to the northwest side of the library building. Since there is a play area near Tanglewood Elementary School, Gustafson noted that the features were carefully curated to make the space a “pocket park” that would fit in and enhance the system. present in the city.

“It has the potential to be a very unique space, not like anything you can find in this area, which would be great for Derby and great for the library. And it’s another opportunity to engage the community. We want to make sure we have something for everyone at Derby – and having another space, and a different space that we can use in different ways, is very beneficial,” Gustafson said. “It’s a project that really has a lot of potential. We’ll see how it goes.

Admittedly aimed at children and families, Gustafson said the outdoor learning space could also provide an additional reading area to the library for adults. Rental options are also being evaluated.

Discussions have already taken place about story time in the outdoor learning area – an option that has been further explored in light of the current pandemic.

One thing is certain, the proposed area would give the library its own space for outdoor programming instead of having to use other city facilities like Madison Avenue Central Park. Gustafson noted that it would help maintain local traffic, promote the library and its mission of lifelong learning, education and recreation – with the outdoor learning area specifically aimed at stimulate creativity.

With Maize receiving a similar grant last year and securing additional funds throughout the process, staff and council are optimistic about the potential expansion of the outdoor learning space.

“I have no doubt that we’re going to give this thing a good run,” Mayor Randy White said.

Kelly Breckunitch is the editor of Derby Informer. Contact him at [email protected] for topical questions and tips.


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