The library reopened to the public June 22 to unveil its new wing and renovated interior. The library looks completely different from how it did before renovations and expansion work began in 2019, officials said.
Upon entering, the library has a modern new look with fresh paint and carpet, new study rooms, shorter shelves and a variety of seating arrangements, from tables to booths. It also has an entirely new area to the right of its front entrance big enough to be its own building, complete with a multipurpose room and a toddler area.
On a given day before its expansion, every table at the library was taken, and some students from the school nearby would find whatever space they could on the floor to get their work done, Branch Manager Lisa Bailey said. She said it had been like that at the library since it first opened in late 2009.
“We outgrew the library as soon as it was built,” Bailey said. “We are in an area of high population and so many families that as soon as we were up, people were commenting, ‘Gee, this is kind of small, isn't it?’ So our first goal was to have a bigger building so that we could fit more people in here.”
In 2015, McKinney residents voted to approve a bond proposition of $9.5 million for the library. Construction began last year for the library’s expansion and the interior renovation.
The expansion provides more space to serve the growing McKinney population, Bailey said, and also adds more programming spaces. The newly expanded library features stage areas that fold into the walls, an outdoor program area and a multipurpose room called The Bailey that has retractable lecture hall seating. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library is unable to take advantage of these spaces until gatherings of more than 10 people are allowed.
During the first months of the pandemic, the library was able to offer curbside checkout. If people put items on hold, library staff could retrieve those items and bring them out to patrons’ vehicles.
“We also really increased and put a lot of money from our Collection Development Account toward e-books,” Bailey said. “So if people could not come to the library, they could get books, audiobooks or books online at no cost through some of our apps.”
While the library has reopened, there are a few finishing touches being made. A new bronze statue of two children about to run down a hill was recently installed by the Friends of McKinney Libraries and John and Judy Gay, the library’s namesakes. In addition, decorated endcaps will be placed at the end of the bookshelves, but the shipment has been delayed due to the ongoing acrylic shortage as the demand for plastic barriers has increased, Bailey said.
Even in the digital age, libraries are a valuable resource, Bailey said. Before the pandemic hit the North Texas area, the John and Judy Gay Library would circulate more than a million books a year, she said.
“People still use the library; they check out books; they check out DVDs—I think we were the second-busiest election site over the past couple of years when we would hold voting here at the library. We were just a very busy place,” Bailey said. “Right now, it's kind of a shock because we want more people here. But we know we can't have it crowded.”
In spite of this, most of the tables in the new, spaced out area at the front of the library had people using them on a mid-July afternoon. The booths and lounge chairs were also being utilized, while teens and children took advantage of the new spaces that had been created for them—all signs that the library’s expansion will be well-used.
“When people come in the library who haven’t been in since we remodeled, usually, their first remarks are that it's so open-looking and so nicely spread out,” Bailey said. “When you look out the windows on all the sides, you see green. And that's so nice. ... It's just a really beautiful place with lots of light and lots of color.”
John and Judy Gay Public Library
6861 W. Eldorado Parkway, McKinney