Q: What is the history of Merriam Plaza Library?

One of the first libraries set up by the original Johnson County volunteer librarians was the Merriam Library – founded sometime in 1953. Housed in the basement of a residence in the 8500 block of West 55th Terrace, this library was open just five hours a week: from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 to noon on Saturdays. In 1955, following the appointment of a new County Librarian, the library was moved to a temporary storefront at 5844 Merriam Drive and renamed Headquarters. The following year, County Librarian Shirley Brother hired the architect firm Russell, Winters and Moyers to design a 7,200 square foot building at 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway for the library to rent and use as a regional branch. This location, known as the Antioch Library, housed library administration and offices for business and technical services, as well as offering public library service.

Following legislation that permitted the Johnson County Library to own real estate, this building and its site were purchased in 1961 for $169,426.58. Additional land was purchased for parking and future expansion. A Central Reference Department designed to provide research assistance and archival resources was added in 1968. Two years later, the building was expanded by 8,000 square feet.

When the Technical Services Department moved to an adjacent building in 1975 (later designated the Support Services Building), Headquarters was remodeled to increase the public space. The Central Reference Department and general public services were merged and the library renamed the Resource Library in 1979. The name was later changed to the Central Resource Library and an additional 8,400 square feet were added to the building. By 1985, plans were underway to move the functions of the Central Resource Library to a larger location while converting the site at Antioch to a regional branch. With space at an all-time premium, the administrative staff were moved to rented offices elsewhere in 1988.

On August 10th, 1995, the Antioch location closed its doors to begin moving reference services to the new Central Resource Library located at 87th and Farley in Overland Park. After extensive renovations to both the staff and public areas, the Antioch Library opened on March 26th, 1996.

In 2008, with the implementation of the Experience Johnson County Library strategic plan, Antioch Library was designated as the origin site for 6 By 6, Ready to Read—Johnson County Library’s early childhood literacy program. The Antioch branch closed on January 28, 2024, to make way for the new Merriam Plaza Library.

The Merriam Plaza Library was designed with nature in mind, incorporating wood paneling on the ceiling and including a green roof in the design. The native plants on the green roof are heat and drought resistant to provide natural beauty year round. The library also has light monitors on the roof to allow as much natural light into the space as possible. 

There are two exhibits of public art at the Merriam Plaza Library. Artist Sage Vaughn designed metal sculptures of native plants and flowers for the exterior of the library. Inside the Webb Family meeting room, artist Emily Alvarez designed three murals that connect to the roots of the Merriam community. 

By the numbers (2018)


Visitors: 204,623

Items circulated: 307,228

Square footage: 34,040


Article researched and originally written by Jerry C. Roy, 2010

Edited and updated by Sam S., 2019

Last Updated: Jan 29, 2024     Views: 212
Answered By: Johnson County Reference