It’s hard to miss the large sign with capital white letters spelling out “LIBRARY” on the exterior of the now completed $8.8 million library branch.
The simple exterior transitions to a myriad of colorful spaces when entering the 17,200-square-foot Clark Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library. About $1.4 million for the project came from the library’s savings, while the other $7.4 million came from a controversial property tax increase in 2019.
At the building, 350 Clearwater Blvd., just east of US 31 in Whiteland, several areas exist that didn’t in the former 10,000-square-foot-branch on Tracy Road, including the Adult Learning Center, which used to be housed in Franklin, a youth program room for kids and teenagers and a STEAM Zones Robotics Learning Lab, said Jody Veldkamp, spokesperson for the Johnson County Public Library. STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
“We’ve hired a full-time STEAM program director designated for youth, teens and adult programming to learn robotics,” Veldkamp said. “This programming is a lifelong opportunity for the community.”
The children’s section, which is larger than the one at the previous branch, includes an Everbright interactive light wall, made of numerous circular electronic light fixtures that change colors as they are turned. By turning enough of the circles, users can create a pattern or artistic piece.
During the library’s soft opening Tuesday, Whiteland resident Jessica Casey sat with her kids in the children’s section.
“We’re getting books for the boys’ book report. We homeschool,” Casey said. “(The library branch) was refreshing. It’s big, it’s open. I love the children’s play area and the enclosed area for toddlers and infants. That helps me be able to take care of my children and read to my children.”
Cade Casey, her 12-year-old son, used a computer he checked out from a laptop kiosk.
“One of the biggest differences to me is the size. It’s much bigger here. The second thing is probably about the play area. It’s big, it’s fun,” he said. “Now you can have your own computer and use it all by yourself and not be stuck at a chair at a table. I think that’s pretty cool. I like how it’s bigger and more open and has high ceilings. The previous branch was nice, a little crowded, but cozy. This is cozy, too. It’s bigger and more open and you can have your own space.”
Whiteland resident Jim Evans also visited the library branch on Tuesday, to check out DVDs.
“It’s the size for one thing, and the architecture,” Evans said, looking around. “It looks to me like it will be a really great place for the public to actually use the facility. They have meetings and different things they offer. I like taking advantage of the tax preparatory services.”
Along with the new branch comes 7,000 new books and a community trail that surrounds it. The library will host a grand opening on Saturday, which will include speeches, a ribbon cutting, refreshments, games and all-ages activities, Veldkamp said.
The dedicated spaces for different types of programming mark a considerable difference between the new Clark Pleasant branch and the previous one, said Heather Petro, the branch’s circulation manager.
“We have different spaces we need for programming and for the public’s personal needs. We have individual study rooms and meeting spaces. That’s probably one of the biggest differences,” Petro said.
“When I first walked in here, I was very happy to know how efficiently everything seemed to be laid out. I really liked the layout and felt the library’s activities would work well in this place. I really love the children’s section. There’s so many fun things, the light wall, the pretend storefront. The first kids are in there today and they’re having a blast.”