The Friends of Johnson County Library, whose used book sales generate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the county’s library system, is proposing consolidating is five current locations into one central hub.
The group is requesting more than $450,000 from the Johnson County Library in order to make the move, which Friends of JCL officials say is needed in order to cut costs and keep the group profitable long term.
“We are determined to take bold steps in order to stay on the path to become more profitable and offer more support to the library,” former Friends of JCL president Jennifer Curtis told the county’s library board during the board’s Thursday meeting.
Library officials and Friends of JCL leaders said the Lackman building, with up to 17,000 square feet of available space, would be big enough to accommodate the Friends’ book-selling and inventorying operations in one place.
Curtis said managing the Friends’ current five locations — including three used bookstores and two inventory centers — creates costs like transportation, inventory management and storage that are “eating away at [the Friends’] sustainability” and long-term mission of being able to support the library system.
During Thrusday’s presentation to the library board, Curtis pointed out that Friends of JCL has given back more than $2.4 million to the library since 1999, primarily through revenue raised by used book sales.
Curtis said the Friends of JCL provides the library with an additional estimated value of $1.3 million annually in non-monetary costs, such as volunteer hours. She said repurposing the Lackman building for the Friends of JCL’s use would be a way for the library to “give back” to the Friends.
“The Lackman building could be sold, and that [$1.3 million] amount could be received once, or the Library can commit to the long term viability of the Friends and receive that $1.3 million and more every year for decades to come,” Curtis said.
The Friends of JCL requested roughly $457,000 from Johnson County Library for the proposed consolidation plan, a move that would also need to be approved by the county commission. If approved, the Johnson County Library Foundation has also committed to pitching in $100,000 for the consolidation plan.
With that $557,000 total, the vacant Lackman branch would be renovated to fit Friends of JCL’s needs, Friends and library officials said Thursday.
While there was a search for a different building to house their operations, Friends’ officials said no other building meets all their criteria: ample parking, 17,000 square feet, room to grow and more needed to host the sort-to-sell facility.
Some library board members, including Fabian Shepard, expressed reservations about the Lackman plan.
Shepard said he was “not super keen on becoming” the Friends’ landlord.
“My support behind Friends is extremely vigorous,” Shepard said. “That is separate from my concerns about this plan. When you hear me say I’m feeling risk averse, I’m not certain this is the best course of action, it has nothing to do with Friends and how grateful I am to have an organization like The Friends of Johnson County Library.”
Although the library board discussed Friends’ consolidation plan, it will not be up for formal consideration until April.
A specific date has yet to be determined. The board of county commissioners, the library board and Johnson County Library Foundation, along with the Friends of JCL are trying to decide on a date.