Library Cements New Five-Year Plan

Every five years, the Library’s strategic plan evolves and changes to better serve patrons and to improve operations and programming. The 2024-2029 strategic plan highlights three areas: building projects (both a new building and improvements to existing buildings); a reorganization of staff and job descriptions; and a focus on diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion efforts.  

Merriam Plaza Library will open in spring 2024, but other building projects will also require focus, County Librarian Tricia Suellentrop said. These projects include maintenance work at the Shawnee Library, ongoing discussions in Prairie Village regarding a community center campus — that could include a new Corinth Library — and renovations to the Spring Hill and De Soto locations. 

The Library is exploring a key-card system that would expand Library hours at Spring Hill and De Soto without adding additional staff by allowing patrons into the buildings before and after staff are present. This might benefit students and others who need extended access to Wi-Fi and often use the Library’s parking lots to connect.  

Suellentrop and Deputy County Librarian Kinsley Riggs also highlighted anticipated service improvements resulting from a personnel reorganization within the system. 

The reorganization is intended to “turn the dial up” on customer service, Suellentrop said. Branches have the mantra of, "how do we get to ‘yes’?” in filling even the most difficult requests. “Staff will now have more time to get someone closer to what they need and what they want,” Suellentrop said. 

Changing job descriptions and duties and adding new positions focused on programming, Riggs said, helps the Library provide “the right programs in the right places based on what our patrons need and want.” 

Riggs notes that those programs could be online or in the branches; but the bigger hope is for the Library to get out into the community more by participating in school events, farmers markets, festivals and other gatherings and events. The intent is also to build on partnerships with other county departments, such as Johnson County Corrections or outside partners like Growing Futures Early Education Center. 

“It’s possible we will see an increase in programs,” Riggs said. “It just depends on when we hit the right stride.”

The third focus of the new strategic plan is an integration of county-wide efforts to improve diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion. In Library operations, these efforts will include working to ensure that both staffing and programming decisions (including author visits, program topics, storytimes, book groups and more) align with the vision and mission of Johnson County’s DEIB goals.  

As with the previous five-year plan, this updated version has five key performance areas (KPAs): education, operations, community, communication and convenience. Tweaks to the language in the vision for each KPA emphasize the Library’s focus on the Johnson County community. 

Also on the horizon in the coming years is a refresh to the Library website and security reviews at branches. 

Meanwhile, Library officials will continue managing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, some positive and some not. One challenge is training staff to respond to an increasing unhoused population and their use of Library spaces.  

Because the Library learned during the pandemic that patrons appreciate curbside service when possible, the Library has continued curbside service at five locations. It will also remain fine-free, which Suellentrop said provided a “really great test for the Library board” and gave members the confidence to keep it in place moving forward. 

You can view the strategic plan as well as the Library’s mission, vision and values on the Johnson County Library website.