Library’s Community Information Boards Are Windows to Invaluable Resources

Johnson County Library is committed to providing all sorts of resources to help patrons live their lives. That includes sharing information about vital non-profit agencies and programs.

To that end, each of the larger Library branches has a bulletin board filled with flyers on everything from Johnson County government and social services to volunteer opportunities to fun and enriching events. Items of interest from Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas are also shared.

Patrons may walk by those bulletin boards without giving them a second glance, but the postings are extremely useful. Much of the information is available in both English and Spanish.

Since 2017, Johnson County Library information specialist Dylan Reiter has been assigned the community information board task, first at Antioch and now at the new Merriam Plaza branch. 

“The main desire is to provide access to assistance resources,” Reiter said. “I’m happy to fill that role.”

Eleven of the 14 Johnson County Library branches have these community information boards, and many also have tables for additional brochures, including career and finance information. The materials are available at all but the neighborhood Libraries of De Soto, Spring Hill and Edgerton.

In the older branches, the bulletin boards are often close to the entrance. In newer branches, they are positioned close to the restrooms.

Each of the larger branches has a designated person like Reiter maintaining the materials and making sure they stay up to date. These staff members have a lot of continuity in those roles, are very dedicated, and take that responsibility seriously.

They have a set of rules and criteria to determine what gets posted, giving priority to resources and programs available free of charge.

When they have more materials than space available, they are guided by Huber’s Hierarchy of Needs, explored in the book “The Purpose Based Library,” by John Huber and Steven Potter.

The pyramid of needs gives top priority to safety and security, followed in order by other basic needs of health and nutrition, functional literacy and access, community engagement, and functional skills development. If there’s room, they can also include materials pertaining to creative expression, advance knowledge and philanthropy.

At Antioch, Reiter had ample space for the bulletin board plus a separate area which included lots of career and finance information. He is also on the Library’s career and finance team, so he realizes how impactful those materials can be. Those brochures frequently disappeared quickly, providing an indication of patron interest.

At Merriam Plaza, which just opened March 20, Reiter is still waiting for a table. So the bulletin board serves that information function currently. 

In addition to posting assistance materials on behalf of other Johnson County agencies, Reiter also frequently posts items from the Kansas Department for Children & Families, Salvation Army, United Way, and blood drive announcements for the American Red Cross.  Senior Computer Users of Kansas City (SenCom), which conducts computers classes for seniors, is also a popular handout. 

Flyers, often written in both English and Spanish, also provide information about utility assistance, early childhood programs, domestic violence crisis hotlines, summer vaccination clinics, cultural events, literacy services, District Court help, and ways to volunteer for Hospice, Hillcrest or as a reading mentor.

Library branches are an ideal place to disseminate this community information, Reiter said. They are welcoming places, unlike some government buildings that can be intimidating.

The bulletin boards are a great way to provide information when people may have sensitive family situations and may be hesitant to ask in person.

“So these boards are a way for us to passively provide access to that assistance,” Reiter observed, “while keeping everyone’s dignity intact.”