Your Community: Johnson County and Olathe Libraries update and enhance Interlocal agreement

Johnson County Library and Olathe Public Library have had a good partnership since 1989, codified in an Interlocal Agreement that was amended numerous times over the years.

In 2022, Library administrators acknowledged the agreement was outdated and needed to be rewritten to reflect governance changes, including the fact that Olathe Public Library had become an official part of Olathe city government in recent years.

So a new Interlocal Agreement between the Johnson County Library Board and the Olathe City Council was approved in January 2023, setting the stage for an even stronger relationship and many more positive collaborations in the future.

Olathe Public Library was formally founded in 1909. Johnson County Library began in the 1950s. Both systems take great pride in their own operations but also realize the advantages of working together.

The new agreement details expectations for both Library systems and compensation terms, updates language to reflect current technology, and adds a joint governance committee for operational oversight. The goal is to enhance service by maintaining a shared integrated Library system, providing shared access to electronic resources, and promoting efficient and convenient coordination for all Johnson County and Olathe patrons.

“It makes the partnership language a lot stronger than in 1989,” said Ben Sunds, Johnson County Library’s Associate Director for Customer Experience. “It updates the language and reaffirms the partnership. A joint governance committee will meet regularly.”

That committee will include five people from each system, representing administration, customer service, branch management, information technology, and marketing/communications.

“It provides us a lot of efficiencies and just good customer service across the entire county,” said Olathe Library System Officer Sara Eccles, who co-leads with Olathe Library System Officer Bob Miller. “All of us are working to provide a good library experience for the residents of Johnson County, whether it’s the Olathe Library or Johnson County Library.”

Johnson County Library Finance Director Dave Vratny agreed this provides the framework for more regular collaboration, in ways that could directly benefit the public.

“The thing that’s exciting to me is where this joint governance committee might take our relationship,” Vratny said. “We have a solid one now, and there are opportunities that we haven’t explored, in part because maybe we didn’t have something like this in place.”

The two Library systems already have a pretty seamless structure, with a shared web catalog in which patrons can check out and return materials from both systems, using either a Johnson County or Olathe Public Library card. They also share electronic resources, including eBooks and eAudiobooks. Olathe Public Library pays its share based on population, which benefits Johnson County Library financially and saves Olathe the larger costs it would incur if it had to duplicate those services independently.

Vratny sees the potential for more positive outcomes, such as shared in-person programming and cross-promotional cooperation.

Sunds also believes the two systems can achieve efficiencies by working together on promotion and communication. One recent example where the two systems worked well together was on the new policy to eliminate fines for overdue materials. Both systems launched that policy at the same time in April, with similar messaging.

“We were in sync with each other,” Sunds said.

Miller agreed that was an excellent project. “We greatly appreciate Johnson County working with us to get this project over the finish line,” he said.

Miller said libraries in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion, Iowa, have a memorandum of understanding for a metro Library network that helped serve as a starting point for Olathe and Johnson County Library to develop their own guiding document.

“We believe the new Interlocal and Service Level Agreements, with effective guidance from the joint governance committee, will continue to build and improve our relationship,” Miller said. “So we are excited about that.”

It’s easy to find a branch near you with 14 Johnson County Library and two Olathe Public Library locations, conveniently located throughout Johnson County. Visit the Johnson County Library and Olathe Public Library websites to learn about resources offered and a map of locations, including the new Olathe Downtown Library.

Johnson County Library – Nurturing the Community’s Collective Wisdom