Johnson County Library: A Resource for Just about Everything
Of the many occupations comprising my employment history, one of my favorites was my nine years as an information specialist with the Johnson County Library. I began my time there in 1988 doing data entry in tech services, but I was soon bumped up to an info. spec. (information specialist) position, rotating among the community library branches. There were eight branch locations then, plus the central library. Now the system boasts an expanded central resource site and thirteen neighborhood libraries. Indeed, times do change!
When I began on the info. desk, the library maintained a physical card catalog which was often easier for patrons to use than the slow computer system. That electronic system was upgraded during my first year, so the cards soon went away. A fax machine capability was a novel addition that first year also, and all branches maintained an extensive reference section with which info. specs. had to familiarize themselves in great detail.
By the end of my tenure, the internet had arrived and made a full-force impact on all libraries. Once public computers arrived, people conducted research and reference on them. We phased out many of the physical reference materials. Videos were popular, and audio books. And various new programs were being offered and rapidly expanding in all areas, including the recognition and promotion of local and regional writers and poets. Some readers feared the advent of e-books might make the physical versions obsolete, but thankfully that was not to be.
Today the system provides convenient meeting rooms for patron use, support for jointly sponsored literary readings and presentations, and extensive children’s services. The collection holdings can be accessed from one’s home computer and book requests placed online. The staff includes numerous sub-specialists for an array of different circumscribed areas of interest. Their training and level of expertise (I know from personal experience) are unsurpassed. And they are aided by approximately 900 volunteers throughout the network. Three branches maintain used-book stores, and annually the Friends of the Johnson County Library sponsor a fund-raising book sale, to help support staff development and community outreach activities.
Expansion is an ongoing process to provide consistent uniform service to the ever-growing Johnson County population. The newest branch, for example, is the Monticello location at 22435 W. 66th Street in Shawnee. Its cutting-edge architecture highlights “a rooftop terrace outdoor area on an environmentally-conscious green roof, equipped with comfortable seating, charging stations, and Wi-Fi.”
So, whatever one’s interests and/or research needs, the Johnson County Library is an excellent choice of first resort. Maintaining state-of-the-art convenience and service, it proudly complements the other three quality public library systems in the Greater Kansas City region. I’ll always cherish my memories of having been on its staff, a small part of its wonderful evolution and growth.