End of Era at Salina Public Library

Things will be a little different at the Salina Public Library to begin the new year. After 40 years, longtime director Joe McKenzie is retiring. The library announced earlier this year that McKenzie planned to call it a career at the end of the year.

The 64-year-old McKenzie started at the Salina Public Library as the Head of the Children’s Department in 1977 after finishing his Masters of Library Science degree at the University of Denver. He became Director of the Salina Public Library in 1989.

During his decades at the library he has overseen many modernization projects and changes to the public library’s building and services. The integration of computers into the library’s daily operations in the 1990s led to the automation of the card catalog in and circulation system in 1992. In addition, McKenzie managed large projects including the major renovation of the unfinished basement area that was remodeled to become a spectacular Youth Services library, with a busy Imagination Station and the Prescott Meeting Room in 1997. Renovation of the main floor for circulation and adult services and new meeting rooms was also a part of this project. The advent of the internet brought additional technology needs for patrons. A 7,000 square foot expansion for The Technology Center, including a training lab, Internet stations and conference room opened in 2005.This project also created a new Technology Department and staff.

As technology grew, the library migrated three times to new automation systems, which required the entire collection to be barcoded, then security stripped and finally the addition of RFID, security gates and self-check units for the convenience of library patrons. Collections grew to include a strong multimedia collection of recorded books, DVD movies, music on CD, Anime and a virtual library of e-books and databases for remote access.

Responsive to the Salina community’s ever changing needs and interests, McKenzie also oversaw the addition of the Community Learning and Skills Sharing program (CLASS). CLASS was a non-profit community initiative and McKenzie served on the original Board. The program grew to need its own space and the Library purchased The Learning Center building at 308 W. Elm St. in 2008. The Learning Center created new staff space for the Community Engagement Department, which does outreach, PR and CLASS. Under McKenzie’s leadership the Salina Public Library has become a vital connection for the Salina community to information, learning and culture.

The Salina Public Library, now more than 100 years old, enriches lives by providing accessible information, learning resources and services to meet the evolving needs of Salina’s dynamic and diverse community.