With a stable budget outlook for the current year, the Johnson County Library Board is squarely focused on what the library experience of the future might look like.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
The board last week talked about potential branch consolidation, introduced a new digital media subscription service, heard a proposal for a potential new branch in Lenexa and elected the upcoming year’s officers. Its meeting Wednesday opened with brief remarks from outgoing Vice-Chair/Secretary Catherine Nugent and Charley Vogt. Their board terms expired Wednesday night. Vogt urged the library to keep pushing for a new Monticello branch in northwest Johnson County.
“Libraries are in my blood and it’s been a great eight years,” said Vogt. “Nothing has ever changed the need for a new library out in western Lenexa and western Shawnee.”
Amid the discussion of the capital improvement plan, County Librarian Sean Casserley presented the revenue report, which covers the finances through the end of February. It showed that with 17 percent of the year elapsed, the library has revenue of $11.6 million. That accounts for 49 percent of its projected 2013 budget of $23.6 million.
While the library has accumulated revenue at a slower pace than the previous year — by February 2012, the library had secured revenue accounting for 59 percent of its budget — the amount coming in still far outpaces its expenses ($2,804,884.72), which year to date, are only 12 percent of the projected budget.
Casserley stated that based on those numbers and potential uncertainty in the economy, he anticipated waiting to fill eight open positions until the end of 2013.
In the interim, he noted that the library has decided to offer Zinio, a digital magazine subscription service, to library patrons. The cost of the service, which is expected to launch in late June or July, is $30,000.
“We’re offering content in a way that you don’t have to come into our facilities,” Casserley said. “Because we’re seeing an uptrend in media” usage.
The board also expects usage patterns to affect potential decisions on branch consolidation. Casserley is considering options for merging the Cedar Roe and Antioch branches. A 2009 master plan called for the aging facilities to be combined in 2016. Cedar Roe was built in 1967 in Roeland Park and Antioch was built in 1956 in Merriam.
“We’re looking at two buildings that are approaching the end of their life,” Casserley said.
In a conversation about potential alternatives, board members suggested integrating a new library space within a community center or taking over an empty retail space along a busy thoroughfare like Shawnee Mission Parkway or Johnson Drive.
“We’re still in the process of defining the library of the future,” said board member Nancy Hupp.
“The library of the future would have a smaller footprint, would be more consolidated and have a bigger media component,” said Nugent.
The library of the future may also be in Lenexa, at least that’s the hope of Lenexa City Administrator Eric Wade. He, alongside Lenexa Mayor Michael Boehm, attended Wednesday’s meeting as part of an attempt to restart the conversation about building a new library within Lenexa City Center. The city’s multi-use development at the intersection of 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard is designed to be a mix of residential, commercial and public spaces.
“The hope is that this is an idea that you have interest in,” Wade said. “And that we start talking about how to move this from an idea to a reality.”
A proposed 28,000-square-foot library branch would be located on two floors in a community center space alongside an auditorium, community meeting spaces, city administration offices and a gymnasium. Lenexa is also talking with Johnson County Community College about building classroom space in the complex. If the library moved into Lenexa City Center, the Lackman branch would be closed. The board expressed an interest in hearing more information, but took no formal steps.
The meeting closed with a restructuring of the board. Current chair Mitra Templin will serve a second term as board chair with Hupp serving as vice-chair, Neil Shortlidge as secretary and Emmanuel Obi as treasurer.
“I just hope that future boards will look back and understand what we started here was to do the libraries of the future, which you all know was my big push toward consolidation,” said Nugent.