Where to begin? After serving more than 20 years as community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District, memories of marketing and promoting one of the best darn products around are joyful, satisfying and numerous.
In February 1979, the Library District was in transition. Jewell Smith was retiring as executive director, and, later that year, Annie Busch was hired to take her place. The Library District, now ten facilities strong, five in the city and five in the county, was a mere six branches and the Midtown Carnegie Branch, then called the Main Library, was the major resource facility.
Yes, everything was smaller then, only 125 or so employees, now almost double that, and the materials budget—the amount of money we had to spend on books and other items—was only a fraction of what we have now.
But the energy and enthusiasm of the staff was palpable—you could feel it every morning when you arrived at work. We were all avid readers—almost all librarians are—it was more than that. We were on a fast-moving train on the same track. We felt an urgency to give the tax-paying citizens of Greene County the best library service possible.
The projects and facilities started and never stopped. ORION—the Ozarks Regional Information Online Network—brought e-mail and the World Wide Web to library patrons. Computers—and computer classes—took their place right next to the computerized card catalogs. There was no going back. Information now came to you in multiple formats, not just books and magazines.
The tipping point though was in 1999. The District’s first destination library—the award-winning and nationally recognized Library Center—opened to rave reviews from the public. And, the 83,000-square-foot former home improvement store quickly became a beloved community center, visited by more than 15,000 people each week.
Following a successful tax levy campaign, the second destination facility, the Library Station, opened on North Kansas Expressway. Like the Library Center, the Library Station combined traditional library services with conveniences and amenities, such as a drive-up service window, gift shop, food service and numerous meeting rooms, and, again, it was a hit with the public. More than 10,000 people of all ages each week enjoy its whimsical and informative transportation-themed décor.
In the past 20 years, libraries were established in the Greene County towns of Willard, Fair Grove and Strafford. This summer, the library-goers in Willard are enjoying their new stand-alone branch, while downtown dwellers are experiencing a new type of library service in the contemporary-cool Park Central Branch on Springfield’s Square.
It’s transition time again. Busch retired in January and I am following her this week. The new executive director, Regina Greer Cooper, took the helm six months ago and now leads a staff dedicated to continuing to provide the citizens of Greene County with superlative library service.
Watch for more good stuff from your Library District!
This is Jeanne C. Duffey’s last column as an employee of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She hopes you’ve enjoyed her Library District reports as much as she has.
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