A former Johnson County Library staff member and now a professional writer, Mark Scheel, reminisces about his time working for the Library. His personal account below highlights his time working at the Questions desk as an Information Specialist, using a real physical card catalog, helping bring newly-important internet access to patrons, and more:
Of the many occupations comprising my employment history, one of my favorites was my nine years as an information specialist with the Johnson County Library. I began my time there in 1988 doing data entry in tech services, but soon I was bumped up to an info spec position, rotating among the community library branches. There were eight branch locations then, plus the Central Resource Library. Now the system boasts an expanded central resource site and 13 neighborhood libraries. Indeed, times do change!
When I began on the info desk, they still maintained a physical card catalog which was often easier for patrons to use than the slow computer system. That electronic system was upgraded during my first year and soon the cards went away. A fax machine capability was a novel addition that first year also, and all branches maintained an extensive reference section with which info specs had to familiarize themselves in great detail.
By the end of my tenure, the internet had arrived and impacted all libraries full force. Public computers were in, and research and reference were being conducted on them. Much of the physical reference materials became phased out. Videos were popular, and audio books. And various new programs were being offered and rapidly expanding in all areas including the recognition and promotion of local and regional writers and poets. Some readers feared the advent of e-books might obsolete the physical version, but thankfully that was not to be.
Today the system provides convenient meeting rooms for patron use, support for jointly sponsored literary readings and presentations as well as extensive children’s services. The collection holdings can be accessed from one’s home computer and book requests placed online. The staff is comprised of numerous subspecialists for an array of different circumscribed areas of interest. Their training and level of expertise (I know from personal experience) are unsurpassed. And they are aided by approximately 900 volunteers throughout the network. Three branches maintain used-book stores, and annually the Friends of the Johnson County Library sponsor a fundraising book sale, held to help support staff development and community outreach activities.
Expansion is an ongoing process to provide consistent uniform service to the ever-growing Johnson County population. The newest branch, for example, is the Monticello location at 22435 W. 66th Street in Shawnee. With cutting-edge architecture, it highlights “a rooftop terrace outdoor area on an environmentally-conscious green roof, equipped with comfortable seating, charging stations, and Wi-Fi.”
So, whatever one’s interests and/or research needs, the Johnson County Library would be an excellent choice of first resort. Maintaining state-of-the-art convenience and service, it proudly complements the other three quality public library systems in the Greater Kansas City region. I’ll always cherish my memories of having been on staff there, and some small part of its evolution and growth.
Scheel, Mark. “Johnson County Library: A Resource for Just about Everything” Metamorphosis Literary Agency, 1 May 2019, https://www.metamorphosisliteraryagency.com/single-post/2019/05/01/Johnson-County-Library-A-Resource-for-Just-about-Everything
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