Olathe & Southwest Joco

The Olathe library system partners with the county’s libraries

Olathe has its own library system, separate from the Johnson County library and supported by its own tax levy, but the two are close partners. So much so that they share contractual relationships with vendors to bring patrons such services as e-books, Freegal for music and Zinio for magazines.

“It’s possible to use any of our buildings with either library card,” said Olathe Library Director Emily Baker. “You don’t have to have two separate cards.”

The Olathe library directly serves 129,000 people and has a circulation of about 1.5 million. But that does not yet reflect checkout of digital books, so the number is actually higher, Baker said.

The Olathe library also offers storytelling programs to promote children’s literacy as well as teen programs, including a certified babysitting course.

“It’s really popular because it’s one of few available,” Baker said.

Like the Johnson County library, Olathe is looking to the future. A previous master plan envisioned two new library branches, one in the northwest part of the city and another in the southeast part, to complement the main library downtown and the Indian Creek branch.

But a consultant’s report report late last year said the recession had made that plan “unachievable” and advised the library to pursue a different course.

“New libraries in other parts of the city are not needed,” said the report from Group 4 Architecture, Research and Planning.

Still, the current system needs more capacity. The main library at 201 E. Park St. was built in 1979 and designed to hold 100,000 materials. But it has 120,000. The Indian Creek branch at 12990 S. Black Bob Road opened in 2000 and was designed to hold 50,000 materials but it currently holds 80,000.

The consultant recommended expanding both existing libraries to increase total area from 36,000 square feet to between 70,000 and 90,000. Further, the library was advised to have both branches offer full services, instead of a having a main site and a branch.

The consultant suggested the library could still be more geographically accessible by setting up unstaffed vending kiosks in various parts of the city, along with lockers where people could pick up pre-ordered materials.

The report was endorsed by a task force created to map the library’s course and was presented to the City Council. Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland instructed the task force to begin looking into the costs of the recommendations and how to pay for them. That work is ongoing.