Library board ends search with promotion of interim to county librarian
The Johnson County Library Board last week chose one of the library's own to fill its top position.
At its June 20 meeting, the board appointed Donna Lauffer as county librarian, ending an almost yearlong search for a replacement for Mona Carmack, who retired in January. After conducting two nationwide searches, the board chose Lauffer, formerly the library's associate director for branch services and outreach, over second candidate Clyde S. Scoles, an experienced library director from Ohio.
Upon the announcement of her appointment, Lauffer thanked the board and said she was lucky that Carmack left the library in such good shape, though she said there were several ways the library could move forward to improve.
"I will do my best to move us forward in the next several years," Lauffer said.
Board Chairman Kenneth Davis said the second search resulted in more than 300 calls to qualified professionals across the country and seven resumes. He said the board felt Lauffer had the knowledge, experience and leadership necessary for the position.
After the meeting, Lauffer explained that she was not one of the three finalists that resulted from the library's first search for candidates because at the time, she had not applied. She said she only decided to throw her hat in the ring after she was named interim county librarian.
"What changed my mind was, when I started being interim county librarian, I got a lot of feedback from the board and the public and staff, so I decided that I would see what would happen if I threw my hat in," Lauffer said.
Lauffer said she had a long list of items to tackle. The library is at the end of its 2001-2007 strategic plan, so she will have to begin an update, as well as plans for the library's technology and facilities. Lauffer said she also will begin the recruitment process to fill vacant senior management positions.
The library also is preparing its budget for next year. Lauffer and other library staff will present their budget Thursday to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, and they also will make their pitch to get funding for the library's three biggest upcoming projects: expansion of the Leawood Pioneer and Shawnee branches, and purchasing land and building a Monticello branch.
"We don't know that the commission is going to fund it," Lauffer said. "We've been asking for the Shawnee project for a long time. We have some needs that have not been met for several years, the population has continued to increase, and the buildings continue to age."
The library already has some funds set aside to purchase property for the Monticello branch, a county-approved $100,000 allocation for a possible option on property, as well as $88,000 in its fund balance designated to pay the first year of debt service, if property is purchased for $1 million.
"During this interim state, it really was not a good time to be doing that," Lauffer said of purchasing property. "But now that we have a permanent director, that will be something we'll try to get started, because land never gets cheaper."
Lauffer said the library will continue to focus on two or three sites that staff members have researched in western Shawnee. Carmack previously said the library's top options were a site in the Grey Oaks commercial development at Woodsonia Drive and Clear Creek Parkway and a possible joint site with the city of Shawnee on its western pool property on Woodland Drive.
County commissioners will decide which projects will be funded next month, and Lauffer said those who want to see the library projects completed should contact their commissioner.
Lauffer has served as the interim county librarian since Carmack's retirement. She had been the associate director for branch services and outreach since 2002.
Lauffer has master's degrees in Library Science from UCLA and in Public Administration from Kansas University, as well as a bachelor's degree from University of California, Long Beach. She has worked for the Johnson County Library since 1979.
Prior to her most recent position, Lauffer presided over the planning and construction of several library facilities in the 1990s, the last being the Gardner Library in 2001. She was the planner for the library's issues forum series and Community Issues 101.
Outside of the library, Lauffer has been involved with civic engagement initiatives in the metropolitan area since 2002 and has consulted for the Kettering Foundation on research for Teaching Public Politics. She also has been involved with the League of Women Voters of Johnson County and Kansas and currently serves on the board of the National League of Women Voters organization.