After a decade at the helm of Johnson County Library, Sean Casserley is retiring June 30. The leadership mantle passes to longtime Deputy County Librarian Tricia Suellentrop.
Casserley’s tenure was marked by great growth and change. In the past 10 years, Johnson County Library has built the Monticello and Lenexa City Center branches (the first new branches since 2000) and completely revamped Central Resource Library, along with numerous other facility upgrades.
It launched an extensive eBook collection, dramatically expanded digital services, grew the MakerSpace into a hugely popular workshop, developed rich partnerships with schools and community groups and adopted countless innovations during an unprecedented pandemic.
Through it all, the Library stayed true to its mission: providing free access to materials and services, for all citizens to inform themselves and enrich their lives. The Library consistently gets nearly 90% approval on citizen surveys.
Casserley is ready for retirement but leaves with great appreciation for the chance to serve in a vital public institution that is a bulwark of democracy.
“I am grateful,” he said in an interview. “I cannot say how lucky I have felt to be given the opportunity to lead this organization. Where else do you get the opportunity to work in a community which is so highly educated, which is so dedicated to reading?”
County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson summarized Casserley’s accomplishments.
“The Johnson County Library system is annually one of the top rated services for our residents, and that speaks highly to the contributions of Sean and his team,” she said. “Sean’s leadership on the Comprehensive Library Master Plan, Library improvements, upgrades and projects like Monticello, Lenexa City Center and the upcoming Antioch Library replacement are just some of the ways Sean has helped mold the Library system that generations have come to love and appreciate.”
Casserley, who grew up in New Zealand, previously ran the Information Technology department and then served on the executive team for the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In 2011, a recruitment firm urged him to apply for the Johnson County Librarian position. He got the job, starting in May 2012, replacing Donna Lauffer.
Almost immediately, Casserley and Suellentrop had to cut the Library’s $26 million budget by $1.2 million because of the ongoing recession. Following that challenge, they oversaw two strategic plans and a 20-year capital master plan.
That capital plan helped persuade the Board of County Commissioners to approve a .75-mill levy increase for the Library, the first since 1994. It has funded the Library’s ambitious capital improvements. The Library’s overall budget has grown to about $46 million.
Casserley is gratified to have worked with staff and volunteers who are endlessly resilient and creative, in a community that holds the Library in such high esteem.
Among Casserley’s many fond memories: seeing women get invaluable financial advice at Women & Money events; watching residents hear crucial updates at Legislative coffees; and seeing the community grapple thoughtfully with issues through the Race KC project.
And, of course, a favorite memory is watching children flock to branches to pick up books for summer reading.
He has no grand retirement plans but will finally have time to indulge his passion for reading, guitar playing and traveling.
He also has full confidence in Suellentrop, who has served the system for 24 years, including as Deputy County Librarian since 2008.
“She is great working with people. She’s a strategic thinker. She is fiscally conservative, which is important in Johnson County,” Casserley said. “The future for the Library and for Johnson County in general is really bright.”